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SIR LAWRENCE ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A, 
From the Aptograph Portrait in hie 
Uffizi Gallery, Florence 



SIR LAWRENCE 
ALMA-TADEMA 

O.M., R.A. 



BY 

PERCY CROSS STANDING 



u Art must be beautiful because Art must elevate, not teach; when 
Art teaches in the common sense of the word, it becomes accessory to 
some other object. In elevating, it only teaches because it ennobles 
the mind." — Alma-Tadema. 



CASSELL and COMPANY, Limited 

LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK 6» MELBOURNE. MCMV 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



UNIFORM WITH THIS WORK. 



HENRIETTA RAE 

(Mrs. Ernest Normand). 

By ARTHUR FISH. 

With Eight Illustrations in Colour and 
Thirty-two in Black and White. 



CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited, London, 
Paris, New York and Melbourne. 



)H£ J. PA UL GETTY CENTF* 
LIBRARY 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGE 

Boyhood and Youth ...... 9 

CHAPTER II. 
Early Successes : The Gambart Contract . . 20 

CHAPTER III. 
First Visit to Italy and Friendship with Ebers 30 

CHAPTER IV. 
His Home in England -35 

CHAPTER V. 

Pictures of the late 'Sixties and the 

'Seventies 45 

CHAPTER VI. 

"The Death of the First-Born"; "The Seasons" 

and "Sappho" 62 

CHAPTER VII. 

His Collected Works in London : Pictures of the 

'Eighties 71 

CHAPTER VIII. 
Some of his Critics . . . . . . .82 



iv CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER IX. 
His Work for the Theatre 91 



PAGE 



CHAPTER X. 
Pictures of the 'Nineties 98 

CHAPTER XI. 
The Knighthood and its Celebration . . . 104 

CHAPTER XII. 

"The Finding of Moses"; Portraits and Water 

Colours no 

CHAPTER XIII. 
An Appreciation 117 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., R.A. . Frontispiece 

Education of the Children of Clovis . To face page 20 

Fredegonda at the Death-bed of Pr^- 

textatus „ 26 

The Vintage Festival „ 28 

The Proposal „ 30 

Rose of all the Roses „ 34 

In Confidence „ 36 

Dolce far Niente „ 38 

The Four Seasons „ 40 

In the Time of Constantine .... „ 44 

A Lover of Art (Colour) .... ,, 46 

A Roman Emperor „ 48 

The Juggler „ 50 

Joseph, Overseer of Pharaoh's Granaries „ 52 

The Sculpture Gallery .... „ 54 

The Picture Gallery ,, 56 

"There He Is " „ 58 

" God-Speed " „ 60 

Death of the First-born .... „ 62 

The Parting Kiss „ 66 



vi LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

In the Rose Garden To face page 68 

An Oleander „ 70 

The Torch Dance „ 72 

The Frigidarium „ 74 

Hadrian Visiting a Pottery in Britain . „ 76 

Miss Anna Alma-Tadema „ 78 

The Shrine of Venus ,, 80 

The Pyrrhic Dance (Colour) .... „ 84 

"He Loves Me: He Loves Me Not" „ 88 

Wandering Longings M 92 

Whispering Noon „ 94 

The Kiss „ 96 

Comparisons „ 98 

A Dedication to Bacchus .... „ 100 

A Silent Greeting (Colour) .... „ 102 

"The Year's at the Spring". ... „ 104 

Autumn „ 106 

The Finding of Moses . . . . . „ no 

Sir Ernest A. Waterlow, R.A., P.R.W.S. . „ 114 

Lady Alma-Tadema and Her Family . . „ 116 

Pleading (Colour) „ 120 



PRINCIPAL HONOURS CONFERRED 
ON SIR L. ALMA-TADEMA. 



1862. Gold Medal at Amsterdam. 
1864. Gold Medal of the Salon, Paris. 

1866. Knighthood of the Order of King Leopold of Belgium. 

1867. Second Class Medal at the Paris Exposition. 

1868. Knighthood of the Lion of the Netherlands. 

1869. Knighthood of the Second Class of St. Michael. 

1870. Elected Member of the Royal Academy of Munich. 

1873. Knighthood of the Order of the Legion of Honour, France. 

1874. Elected Member of the Royal Academy, Berlin ; Large 

Gold Medal. 

1876. Elected Associate of the Royal Academy, London ; Medal 

of the Philadelphia International Exhibition. 

1877. Medal of the Royal Scottish Academy. 

1878. Gold Medal of the Paris Exposition. 

1879. Elected a Royal Academician, London. 

1880. Gold Medal of the Melbourne International Exhibition. 

1881. The Prussian Order of Merit. 

1889. Gold Medal of the Paris Universal Exposition. 

1893. Gold Medal of the Chicago International Exhibition. 

1893. Gold Medal of the Academy of St. Luke, Rome. 

1894. Gold Medal, Vienna. 

1898. Great Gold Medal of the Brussels Exhibition. 

1899. Knighted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. 

1905. Order of Merit conferred by H.M. King Edward VII. 



All the colour and half-tone blocks in this volume have 
been produced by Messrs. Andre & Sleigh, Limited. 



SIR LAWRENCE 
ALMA-TADEMA, O.M., R.A. 



CHAPTER I. 

BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. 

BORN at the little village of Dronryp — be- 
tween Harlingen, opposite Texel Island, 
and Leeuwarden — in the Frisian province of 
Holland, on January 8th, 1836, it cannot with 
truth be averred that Lourens (Lawrence) 
Alma-Tadema was entirely cradled in the lap 
of luxury. That is to say, his father belonged 
to that large and honourable class of prac- 
titioners, the notaries, and enjoyed a fairly 
prosperous practice ; but when Lourens had 
barely attained the age of four years his male 
parent died, and the widow was left, in ex- 
ceedingly straitened circumstances, with five 
children to provide for — viz., Lourens and his 
little sister, and three boys the offspring of a 
former marriage. Of the future artist's father, 
all that we know with certainty is that he was 
a musical enthusiast, and a man of real artistic 
merit and accomplishment. 

The mother Tadema was, it may be 



io ALMA-TADEMA. 

imagined, faced by a problem of no ordinary 
difficulty ; but, being a woman of undaunted 
courage and resource, she set to work with a 
brave heart. It may be said at once that 
she was completely successful in her unequal 
fight with the battle of life, and all her children 
turned out well. From earliest childhood — ■ 
one might almost say from babyhood — Lourens 
was possessed by the idea that he would be 
an artist. There is, in fact, one of the usual 
" fabling stories " to which all genius is sub- 
jected, to the effect that he corrected a mis- 
take in a drawing master's design before he 
had attained his fifth year ! And certain it is 
that he could " draw " before he had wholly 
lost the lisp of babyhood. 

The immediate vicinity of Leeuwarden is 
singularly picturesque in a country generally 
noted for its flatness, while the ancient church 
of Dronryp stood perched upon one of the 
hillocks that were wont to be erected by the 
sturdy Frieslanders in order to escape the 
floods. Moreover, Alma-Tadema recalls that 
in the days of his childhood the women of the 
countryside still affected the old-fashioned but 
beautiful costume peculiar to their nationality 
— the quaintly brilliant gowns of many hues, 
the towering caps, and the veils that imparted 
so characteristically stately an accompaniment 
to the whole. It used to be the lad's delight 
to make childish sketches of these his country- 
women, or, indeed, of anything that attracted 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. n 

his attention in a way to inspire his already 
nimble pencil. From the first he was a loving 
and lovable boy, inspiring the affection of all 
around him. Among his schoolfellows was 
Bisschop, likewise destined to fame as a painter. 

In the beautiful country surrounding his 
birthplace, says his friend Ebers, he " received 
the first impressions of childhood ; here, per- 
haps, the bright colours and brilliant light, 
afterwards so exquisitely portrayed by his art, 
were stamped upon his soul. In this region, 
too, the only antiquities found in Holland 
(coins and ornaments of the Merovingian period) 
were discovered, and seeming trifles often gave 
the artist's soul the impulse to the grandest 
achievements. Was he, afterwards the artist 
of the Merovingian dynasty, directed towards 
that great and bloody epoch of French history 
by some of these things, a word heard or pic- 
ture seen when a child ? His father died 
young, but his noble mother understood how 
to train the vivacious boy with tenderness and 
discretion. Like many sons whose education 
is directed by a widowed mother, his mind 
and imagination developed with special har- 
mony and vigour." 

Yet, to the boy's utter dismay and chagrin, 
it was decreed that he should follow the pro- 
fession of his father — the law. In the Friesland 
of that day the art of the painter was generally 
regarded as that of the actor was for many 
generations looked upon in this country — 



12 ALMA-TADEMA. 

certainly not as a calling to be adopted by the 
respectable, or by such as desired some day to 
take a place of honour and esteem among the 
good citizens of their native land. The fact 
remains that the dreamy and enthusiastic lad 
was nearly condemned to pass the term of 
his natural life amid the dry-as-dust surround- 
ings of a lawyer's office. Sent to a Greek 
and Latin preparatory school, he determined, 
even now, to snatch every moment that he 
could to devote to the art he already passion- 
ately loved, so he would rise before daylight 
and paint until he had to go to the office. 
In order to effect this, Lourens attached a 
string to his big toe when he went to bed 
at night. This string communicated with his 
mother's bedroom, and at five o'clock in the 
morning his mother would jerk the string to 
awaken Lourens, who would then rise and 
begin the work that he loved before proceed- 
ing to start the work that he loathed. A 
pretty story, and, moreover, a true one. 

" I did not entirely dislike the study of 
the ancient languages," he told me once, " for 
they have influenced my art all through my 
life." But he chafed at the thought of any 
career save the art that he longed for. 

It was during this period that he exhibited, 
in a Dutch gallery in 185 1, when he was aged 
fifteen, a portrait of his sister. No doubt the 
work was immature, but it is said to have 
been full of the promise of fulfilment. 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. 13 

But suddenly Fate, " the business-manager 
of Providence/' intervened in behalf of poor 
Lourens. His health collapsed, and broke down 
utterly under the strain imposed by having to 
follow one path of duty while yearning for the 
other of inclination. It was not at first recog- 
nised that this collapse was directly induced 
by the mental strain. In fact, it was gravely 
argued that the youth had not long to live 
in any case, and so, to his unspeakable joy, 
it was decreed that he might rest from his 
legal labours. From that moment his health 
commenced to improve. 

It may here be mentioned, as there has 
been a good deal of misconception on the 
point, that Tadema was christened " Lourens 
Alma-Tadema," and did not subsequently add 
the prefix " Alma M to the surname. Indeed, 
he himself once told the writer that at the 
tender age of six he began to sign his draw- 
ings " L. Alma-Tadema." His godfather was 
Lourens Alma, a brother-in-law of his mother. 

It may be imagined with what unfeigned 
joy and delight the youth now turned to 
pursue his art career, untrammelled and un- 
troubled by the vexations hitherto imposed 
upon his sensitive heart and brain. He had 
conquered — had conquered by means of what 
was for him, under Providence, a most merciful 
accident ; and it was now for him to show 
of what stuff he was made, and how he pro- 
posed to shape and make his life's work. It 



14 ALMA-TADEMA. 

was still no path of roses that he trod. In 
the light of after happenings, it seems a severe 
reflection upon the artistic discernment of his 
native homeland that the artist failed to obtain 
a start in the academies of Holland. It is, 
none the less, a fact. Hence it was that he 
took up his residence at Antwerp in 1852, and 
there commenced to work in the Academy 
with all the enthusiasm, high purpose, and rigid 
self-criticism that have characterised his aims 
from end to end of his art career. So much 
high purpose and self-criticism, in fact, that 
he destroyed canvas after canvas of his own 
that did not quite please him or attain his ideal 
of what should be. " Tadema did not merely 
work at Antwerp,' ' wrote a friend. " He slaved 
in his efforts to make up for all the precious 
time he had lost." It is of interest to note 
that at Antwerp many years afterwards was 
produced a play from the pen of the artist's 
eldest daughter, Miss Laurence Alma-Tadema. 
Antwerp and its associations had, not un- 
naturally, an almost instantaneous effect upon 
the young Tadema' s output. The celebrated 
Wappers* was the acknowledged head of one 
— the romantique school — of the two great 
schools or camps into which the Flemish art 
of that day was divided, whilst the principles 
of Louis David dominated the other. Alma- 
Tadema became in some sense a disciple of 

* Wappers' most famous work is his " Episode de la 
K evolution Beige." 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. 15 

Wappers, because this master's particular 
school — the Belgic-Flemish — cherished as its 
avowed object the revival of all that was best 
and grandest in the work of the old Dutch 
and Belgian masters. Wappers left Antwerp 
some six months after Tadema's arrival there, 
but Lourens had also the benefit of the tuition 
of De Keyser, who had always represented the 
same tendencies as his predecessor. 

These hard-working days in the great store- 
house of Flemish art were among the happiest, 
as well as the most momentous, of Alma- 
Tadema's career. The happiest, because he 
had the supreme satisfaction of being joined 
at Antwerp in 1859 ^Y n ^ s mother and sister, 
to whom he was tenderly attached ; the most 
momentous, because here he stood, in the 
heart of the art-world, with his foot on the 
first rung of the ladder of fame at this the 
very outset of his real education. The first 
large picture that he attempted in the Belgian 
art school was " The Destruction of Terdoest 
Abbey," with which he was so dissatisfied 
that he gave it to his mother to use as an 
oilcloth for the dining-table of her large family ! 

In 1858, after some months of the Academy, 
the student became a pupil of the famous 
Baron Leys, whose influence controlled him 
for a considerable period. In addition to 
working on several pictures of this master 
(especially his " Golden Fleece," which 
was his principal exhibit at the London 



16 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Universal Exhibition of 1862), he was privi- 
leged to assist Leys in his great fresco-work 
for the Town Hall of Antwerp. It was, in- 
deed, a great stroke of good fortune for the 
young man that Leys should have been 
engaged to carry out this particular piece of 
work at a time when Alma-Tadema was work- 
ing in his studio. In addition to the master's 
own immense store of historical and archaeologi- 
cal knowledge, Alma-Tadema also derived much 
valuable information and historical detail from 
Louis de Taye, the professor of archaeology 
at the Academy of Antwerp. The subjects 
selected by Baron Leys for his six frescoes in 
the Town Hall were in every case chosen from 
the glowing annals of the history of the great 
Flemish city. In this way again, therefore, 
did Alma-Tadema acquire much of the know- 
ledge necessary to the making of good pictures. 

Leys appears to have been a kindly, if at 
times severe, critic of his pupil's work. It was 
under his guidance that Alma-Tadema began 
to put forth that skill in the painting of marble 
which he has since brought to such a pitch 
of excellence. Whilst occupied on the picture 
of " Luther," now in the possession of Sir 
Cuthbert Quilter, he asked Alma-Tadema 
to insert in the picture a Gothic table. When 
his wish was complied with, he remarked, " It 
is not my idea of a table. I want one that 
everybody knocks his knees to pieces on." 
Hence the table now in the picture, which he 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. 17 

approved of ultimately. And when in 1861 
he came to Alma-Tadema's study to view " The 
Education of the Children of Go vis/' he re- 
marked, " That marble is cheese, and those 
children are not studied from nature ! " 

Although the loved and honoured pupil of 
Leys, Alma-Tadema never permitted his own in- 
dividuality to be merged in that of his mentor. 
On this point he himself has said, ^ If I have 
obtained any degree of success, it is because I 
have always been faithful to my own ideas, 
followed the inspirations of my own brain, 
and imitated no other artist. Whoever wishes 
to accomplish anything in any career in life 
must first be faithful to his own nature." 

In later life, Alma-Tadema has loved to specu- 
late upon the fruitful theme of the possibility or 
impracticability of a subject for a picture in 
its relation to the exact sentiment to be con- 
veyed ; and this especially in its effect upon 
the purely literary tone of so much of the art- 
criticism of the day. " I remember," he once 
said, " that a great professor of history at the 
University of Ghent repeatedly recommended 
me to paint that striking incident in history 
where William the Silent, when leaving the 
Netherlands to organise that great struggle 
with Spain, in answ r er to the parting words 
of Counts Egmont and Horn (' Good-bye, 
noble Prince without a country '), said, l Good- 
bye, noble men without heads/ Of course, 
the feeling of such a scene cannot be given 



18 ALMA-TADEMA. 

in a picture. What subject is there in the 
Venus of Milo that can be written down ? 
Yet nobody will deny that it is one of the 
greatest works of art. What subject is there 
in Raphael's Sistine Madonna ? It is in the 
ecstasy of the Madonna, the beautiful serenity 
of the Venus, that lies the charm." 

It is not strange that Alma-Tadema holds 
the memory of Leys in veneration. The 
Flemish master was not " Baron " Leys at the 
moment when Alma-Tadema first came under 
his influence, but received this richly merited 
honour from Leopold I. in 1867, after his great 
success in the Universal Exhibition of Paris. 
He did more than anyone else to foster in his 
pupils that devotion to the depicting of native 
subjects which dominated Alma-Tadema' s earlier 
period as a painter. The best of Baron Leys' 
pictures are unquestionably for all time. I 
would especially particularise his well-known 
" Erasmus in his Study," " Rembrandt's 
Studio," " Rubens Feasted by the Gunsmiths 
of Antwerp," and " The Institution of the 
Golden Fleece." Leys died in 1869, the last 
few years of his life having been occupied in 
the decoration of x\ntwerp Town Hall, just re- 
ferred to, with Alma-Tadema and Napier Hemy, 
A.R.A., for his scholars, assistants, and friends. 
It is a pathetic circumstance that his task 
in connection with the frescoes was not com- 
pleted at the time of his decease. 

Alma-Tadema never accepted any pecu- 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH. 19 

niary recognition from Leys in connection 
with his work on the Baron's pictures. He 
realised that he owed, and would always owe, 
a great deal to the master's tuition. At the 
same time, the influence of Leys with him was 
not of long duration ; Alma-Tadema's own 
individuality was too powerful to allow of his 
being anyone but " himself " for very long. 
It would be difficult indeed to exaggerate the 
importance to him of his connection with 
Antwerp, the proud city that had produced a 
Rubens, a Vandyck, a Matsys, a Teniers, a 
Van Bree, a Jordaens, and a Leys. 



20 



CHAPTER II. 

EARLY SUCCESSES : THE GAMBART CONTRACT. 

FROM the time of his all too brief acquaint- 
ance with Leys, events moved swiftly 
with Alma-Tadema. After his mother arrived to 
make her home with him he appears to have 
laboured with even renewed energy. He was at 
this moment gradually more and more strongly 
attracted towards the Frankish or Merovingian 
period of history, to the more intimate study of 
which he gave a large proportion of his life's 
work. This is a study replete with fascinated 
interest, and in Alma-Tadema's case it speedily 
brought forth fruit. To a certain, or uncertain, 
extent he may have been influenced by a read- 
ing of Augustin Thierry's " Recit du Temps 
Merovingius " and of Gregory of Tours' " His- 
tory of the Franks," and in any case he 
laboured hard after precise historical and 
archaeological accurateness of design and treat- 
ment. He also studied all the foremost books 
on the period in question. The first result 
was a picture, " Clotilde at the Grave of her 
Grandchildren." On the statement, made at 
haphazard, that this episode was " entirely 
without foundation in fact," Alma-Tadema once 
remarked to the writer : " That the faithful 



EARLY SUCCESSES. 21 

Clotilde, having lost all hope of influence by 
the murder of her grandchildren, should have 
wept at their grave, is but human, and, as 
such, certainly historic." This work was 
executed before he knew Leys. He painted it 
in the studio of Louis de Taye during the 
time he helped him to paint his " Bataille de 
Poitiers/' and Madame de Taye kindly sat 
for the head and arms of Clotilde. 

Now came his initial triumph. In 1861, 
at the Antwerp Exhibition, the young painter 
made a real sensation with a splendid picture 
on which he had exhausted an infinity of pains. 
This is the canvas, which speedily became 
world renowmed, entitled " The School for 
Vengeance : the Education of the Children of 
Go vis." It is a theme that has been oft 
described ; the lay-reader may find a suffi- 
ciently lucid interpretation of the subject in 
any history of France. It was the first picture 
he painted under Leys' instructions. Several 
years afterwards this inspiration of Alma- 
Tadema's brush attracted a large share of 
attention when exhibited, with twelve other 
canvases of his, in the Paris Exposition Uni- 
verselle of 1867. It represents work that 
will inevitably live ; and Alma-Tadema was 
glad to sell it to the Antwerp Society for the 
Encouragement of Fine Arts for 1,600 francs ! 

Originally acquired by the King of the 
Belgians in the Art Union of the Antwerp 
Exhibition, " The Education of the Children of 



22 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Clovis " eventually passed into the possession 
of Sir John Pender.* 

Alma-Tadema immediately followed it up 
with other profound studies of the half savage, 
half romantic, wholly enthralling epoch of Europe 
before the tenth century. This time he went 
to the making of the Germanic nations during 
the seventh century, and took as his theme 
" Venantius, Fortunatus, and Radegonda." It 
was immediately acclaimed. He exhibited it 
at Amsterdam in 1862, and it triumphantly 
carried off the gold medal of that institution. 
Furthermore, he was straightway elected a 
member of the Academy of Amsterdam. The 
picture is now in the museum at Dordrecht. 

His venerable mother just survived to 
witness this triumph of her dearly loved son. 
She passed away a few months afterwards, in 
1863, leaving him with a sheaf of bitter-sweet 
memories of his struggles for a future, and of 
his dear mother's devotion in the most de- 
pressing circumstances of genteel poverty. In 
September that same year Alma-Tadema was 
united in marriage to a French lady of great 
attainments and of noble family. Madame 
Alma-Tadema was a Gressin de Boisgirard. 

Working, meanwhile, upon another canvas 
of the Frankish epoch — " Fredegonda at the 
Death-bed of Praetextatus " — which was shown 
in the Paris Salon in 1865 and at Ghent, and 

* Rennefeld's engraving of this picture made the tour 
of the world. 



EARLY SUCCESSES. 23 

was lithographed at the expense of the Society 
of Fine Arts of that ancient city (1865), he 
removed to Brussels in 1865. It remained his 
home until the autumn of 1870, his studio 
being established at 51, Rue des Palais. 

Why was Alma-Tadema so powerfully at- 
tracted towards this period of the Merovingian 
dynasty in Western Europe — a period, " as 
a whole, monstrous and detestable " ? * The 
answer has been given by the artist himself. 
" They are a sorry lot, to be sure, these Mero- 
vingians," he said to Vosmaer,f " but still 
they are picturesque and interesting.' ' Could 
one find a fitter rejoinder ? 

Of this Fredegonda picture, which he finished 
some three years after becoming Leys' pupil 
and helper, Ebers finely says, " all Tadema's 
great qualities appear, thorough comprehen- 
sion of the subject, harmonious composition, 
loving choice and elaboration of detail, and a 
fidelity in architecture and costume that rejects 
everything the connoisseur might exclude." 

The " story " of this fine painting refers 
to the death of Praetextatus, the Bishop of 
Rouen, from wounds inflicted by assassins who 
were hired by Fredegonda for the purpose. 
The venerable dying prelate is in the act of 
denouncing the murderess, who has come to 
his bedside, accompanied by the Dukes Beppolen 

* G. Ebers. 

f Vosmaer was the author of a romance, ** The Amazon," 
in which the artist Aisma is a copy of Alma-Tadema. 



24 ALMA-TADEMA. 

and Ausolwald, pretending to be angered at 
what has taken place. Says the bishop, " Who 
has done this thing ? The same who has killed 
our kings, who has so often spilt innocent 
blood, and has been guilty of so many crimes 
in this kingdom/ ' " I have many skilled 
physicians/' answers the guilty woman ; "let 
me send them to thee." " Me," rejoins the 
venerable victim, " God would now call away 
from this world, but thou who hast caused 
all these sins wilt be cursed to all eternity, 
and God will avenge my blood upon thine 
head " (Gregory of Tours). This subject was 
informed by an enormous and gratifying 
advance in the artist's mastery of technique 
and of detail. 

The story of Alma-Tadema's meeting with 
" Prince " Gambart, the picture-dealer whose 
smile or frown meant so much to the young 
artists of the time, reads almost like a romance. 
Gambart was in very truth the Napoleon of the 
Continental art world. To secure his favour, 
or even his notice, painters would take the 
utmost pains and make the greatest sacrifices. 
He controlled the market. There was only 
one Gambart, and he made his power felt. 
He was a man of discernment, and was also 
the man who introduced Leys to the English 
art world and recognised the genius of Rosa 
Bonheur. 

It was by this remarkable man that Alma- 
Tadema was taken up. Although it cannot be 



EARLY SUCCESSES, 25 

said that their introduction was absolutely un- 
premeditated, neither did the " advance " — if it 
might be so termed — come actually from Alma- 
Tadema himself. It may be imagined that 
countless were the efforts made by young and, 
for the most part, unrecognised artists to 
approach the astute Gambart. In the case of 
Alma-Tadema, the introduction was brought 
about in the following manner. 

This modern Maecenas was bound for the 
house of Dyckmans — Dyckmans during this 
period being a highly successful painter. A 
loyal and good friend of Alma-Tadema' s, Victor 
Lagye by name, contrived to give Gambart' s 
coachman a wrong address, with the joyful 
result that the " Prince " in his equipage drew 
up at the studio of Alma-Tadema instead of at 
his predestined destination. The plot proved 
completely successful. " In the doorway stood 
the young painter, palpitating with excite- 
ment." 

Gambart now perceived his error. But, 
being of a sporting turn of mind, he entered 
the studio. 

He stood for some minutes in front of the 
easel, whereon was displa}/ed Alma-Tadema' s 
latest effort. 

" Is the picture on the easel painted for 
anybody ? " he inquired. 

" Yes," replied Alma-Tadema. 

" Has the purchaser seen it yet ? " 

"No." 



26 ALMA-TADEMA. 

" Then it is mine ! " 

And it duly became his. Nor did the 
matter end here. 

On his return to Antwerp after the delivery 
of the first picture, the great dealer com- 
missioned no fewer than twenty-four pictures 
from Alma-Tadema's brush. Having discovered 
a genius, his aim, of course, was to bind that 
genius to him by ropes of — gold. He forthwith 
arranged, on a frankly commercial basis, to pay 
his new " find " for his work upon a progressive 
scale — i.e., raising the price with each successive 
picture delivered. 

At the same time, it at first appeared as 
though there were " breakers ahead " for em- 
ployer and employed. Alma-Tadema already 
wanted to break away from his heretofore 
favourite themes of the Frankish era, and to 
engage upon subjects of a more classical genre. 
This resolution of his led to countless discus- 
sions between him and his patron ; but the 
artist prevailed, and was permitted to desert 
the Middle Ages in favour of another and more 
remote period, Gambart having found it easier 
to place his pictures of antiquity than those 
inspired by the Middle Ages. 

Yet it occupied four long years of the 
artist's life to carry out this first commission 
from the picture prince. And that is calcu- 
lating at the rate of six pictures per annum ! 

" Gunthram Bose " was another of the 
Merovingian Period paintings produced (in 



EARLY SUCCESSES. 27 

1862) before the artist turned in earnest to 
his classical themes. This work was a striking 
object-lesson in Alma - Tadema's gradually 
developing capacity for microscopic detail — 
for filling every inch of a small canvas — a 
field in which he may well be said to have 
rivalled Meissonier. The precise subject is the 
attack upon Gunthram Bose, while escorting 
his daughters from the asylum of St. Martin 
de Tours, by the followers of Chilperic. 
Gunthram, after commending the poor girls to 
God and His Saints, falls upon the enemy, 
slays % their leader, and saves his children. Alma- 
Tadema also painted, about this period, " The 
Death of Galsvintha," who is " strangled for 
Fredegonda's sake." 

Gambart was exceedingly well pleased with 
his contract with Alma-Tadema, in whom the 
astute dealer had instantaneously recognised 
one of the most brilliant painters of the age. 
And to him came Gambart, at the fulfilment 
of the first contract, with a proposal for a 
new and stupendous agreement. 

His proposition was in some sense a singular 
one. This time the artist was to paint no 
fewer than forty-eight pictures, divided into 
three classes of importance, the first of which 
was to be remunerated at a price where the 
previous order had ceased (about £80), and so 
on upon an ascending scale until the comple- 
tion of the first twelve subjects. The scale 
of the second class started at £100, the scale 



28 ALMA-TADEMA. 

of the third at £120. Now, Alma-Tadema had 
faith in Gambart, and did not forget how " the 
Prince " had in the first instance taken him 
by the hand. Moreover, it suited the young 
artist — who day by day was becoming better 
known for work that had already brought a 
new note into the art of the Continent — to 
renew the contract, undismayed by the mag- 
nitude of his task. As a matter of fact, 
Gambart was not ungenerous, and had 
already proved himself to be tremendously 
appreciative. 

One of the first twelve pictures of this 
second series was that justly celebrated paint- 
ing, " The Vintage/' which Gambart imme- 
diately perceived to be immeasurably the most 
important subject that Alma-Tadema had ap- 
proached for the purposes of this contract. 
He therefore announced his intention of 
paying for it at the rate which he had 
stipulated to pay for the last half-dozen 
pictures. Nor did the matter rest here. 
Directly upon the completion of " The Vint- 
age " (and on the eve of Alma-Tadema' s de- 
parture for England), the merchant-prince gave 
a dinner to the artists of Brussels. Not until 
Alma-Tadema took his seat at the table did he 
realise that the " guest of the evening " was 
none other than himself. In addition to a 
handsome present of plate, the gratified artist 
found tucked into his table-napkin a cheque 
for £100, being the sum in excess of the arranged 




V3 



1 



< - 1 

2 * 



■ 






» 5 



< o 

z I 

- I 



EARLY SUCCESSES. 29 

price for " The Vintage " which his employer 
had decided to pay. 

It is so difficult, however, to continue to 
speak of Alma-Tadema's works in their order of 
sequence that it may be as well now to deal 
with the chain of events slowly but surely 
leading up to his change of mood and subject 
as expressed in paintings of " The Vintage " 
order. 

But, first, a few words concerning the 
celebrated Georg Ebers, one of Alma-Tadema's 
devoted friends and admirers, who is also 
the author of an admirable exposition and 
estimate of his friend's work. His sympathy 
with Alma-Tadema was largely based upon 
Ebers' extraordinary knowledge of Egypt- 
ology, of which he became professor first at 
Iena and afterwards at Leipzig. In addition 
to his great work, " Egypt and the Books of 
Moses/' Ebers published several excellent 
romances, with a view to popularising the 
Egyptian lore which he loved so well through 
this medium. These historical novels com- 
prise " Varda," " Serapis," " The Sisters," and 
" Homo Sum," all of which attained varying 
degrees of popularity. 



3o 



CHAPTER III. 

FIRST VISIT TO ITALY, AND FRIENDSHIP WITH 

EBERS. 

IT has been already implied that the year 
1863 was one of peculiar momentum to the 
young artist, by reason of the demise of his 
mother and of his first marriage. In another 
respect, as affecting his art, the year was not 
less momentous, inasmuch as it witnessed his 
initial visit to Italy and an astonishing effect 
upon his artistic output. 

The Italian itinerary comprised Florence, 
Rome, and Naples. Alma-Tadema the buoyant, 
the impulsive, the enthusiastic, was straightway 
captured by the teeming traditions, the living 
beauties and possibilities, of a world that he 
had heretofore only dreamed of. He went wild 
with thought of the new old-world visions and 
vistas opening out before him. For him the 
ugliness and pitiless squalor of Merovingians 
history — of cloistered queens and slaughtered 
kings — as in a flash began to be made manifest. 
He had been painting the Kingdom of Hate — 
he who loved love and beauty and joy of life 
in all its many matchless forms and aspects. 
He would no more of it; of that he became 
most speedily convinced. To him henceforward 




THE PROPOSAL. 



By Permission of Messrs. Gooden & Fox, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



FIRST VISIT TO ITALY. 31 

the classic school should be dedicate. There 
should be, there must be, no compromise. 

He undertook the journey to Italy in the 
autumn of 1863 (his honeymoon tour) with 
the conviction that the Early Christian 
churches in Italy would assist him in further- 
ing his studies of the early Middle Ages ; and 
so it was that he spent so much more time in 
the study of the Italian schools of painting, 
although the Roman antiquities of Pompeii 
and the splendid museums of sculpture in 
Rome and Naples, and even Florence, fas- 
cinated him to such an extent that soon after 
his return to the north, Roman and Greek 
researches transplanted the early Middle Ages 
and made him the exponent of Roman and 
Grecian civilisation. 

His dearly loved friend and commentator, 
Georg Ebers, writes in reference to Alma- 
Tadema's change from the portrayal of inci- 
dents and episodes in a savagely splendid epoch 
to the greater humanity of scenes taken from 
the heart of a people's life : — 

" He has only known them in a state of 
turmoil and restless excitement. As soon as 
the sensible lover of the historic life of mankind 
discovers this fact, he turns from the political 
history of royal families and governments, and 
perceives that a people's true history is the 
history of its civilisation, which teaches the 
normal character of nations, their life in a 
condition of health, and he joyfully perceives 



32 ALMA-TADEMA. 

how much more delightful it is to make him- 
self familiar with the homes of the people to 
be investigated, the regulations of their govern- 
ment, their civil and social life, their religion 
and science, than to know the names and 
bloody deeds of their kings and the battles they 
fought. From the kingdom of the Franks Alma- 
Tadema turned to Rome and Hellas, and here 
the progress of civilisation awakened an interest 
that far outweighed every other. . . . His 
gaze extended to the borders of the earth, 
and, instead of seeking subjects in the pages 
of a vivid historian, he fixed his eyes on the 
nations of antiquity, and, without troubling 
himself much about their political history, 
began to investigate their life in all its phases. 
The aspect of nature in Southern Europe 
appealed powerfully to his soul. The deep 
blue of the sky which overarches Italy, the 
varying hues of the waves that wash its shore, 
made a profound impression upon him, and 
blended their glitter with the sunny radiance 
of his own artist soul. He examined marble, 
the mother of so many works of art, wherever 
he found it : in its quarry, amid ruins, and in 
new palaces, and learned to know it in every 
stage of its existence, every shade of colouring, 
and every imaginable light. I have spent 
delightful sunny days with him on the shore 
of the Mediterranean. One beautiful spring 
morning — the sea was sparkling like pure 
sapphires, and the prince's garden was dis- 



FIRST VISIT TO ITALY. 33 

playing the most luxuriant vernal green foliage 
— he stood silently beside me a long time, 
revelling in this splendour ; at last he exclaimed, 
1 Can there be anything more superb ? And 
yet fools say that pale green and blue do not 
harmonise ! ' " 

Ebers makes us comprehend the appeal made 
to Alma-Tadema's soul by the new conditions, 
the novel sights and sounds of the Italian 
environment. The only thing to detract in 
any way or ever so slightly from the value of 
Ebers' criticism is his extraordinary affection 
for the artist, which is observable in well-nigh 
every sentence that he wrote about him. 

In this same memorable year, 1863, " at 
the portal, as it were, of his road through 
antiquity," Alma-Tadema created the first of 
his astonishing series of Egyptian pictures. 
One uses the word " astonishing " advisedly 
and in a double sense of the word, as it was 
not until nearly four decades afterwards that 
he visited the Land of the Pharaohs at all. 
The subject of this first excursion into Egypt 
was " Three Thousand Years Ago," repro- 
ducing with life-like fidelity that which we 
know to have been the approved holiday 
pleasure of the early Egyptians. His next two 
attempts in this kind were respectively entitled 
"An Egyptian at his Doorway" and "The 
Chess-players." So careful at all times about 
detail, he took extraordinary care in the pre- 
paration of his preliminary sketches for these 



34 ALMA-TADEMA. 

pictures. His viewpoint sensibly broadened 
out by his studies in the south, until Egypt, in 
his well-arranged mind, became bracketed with 
Greece and Rome. 

It was Ebers* who asked Alma-Tadema why 
he had chosen to desert the field of Frankish 
romance in favour of painting pictures of 
Egyptian types and subjects. " Where else 
should I have begun/' rejoined the artist, " as 
soon as I had become acquainted with the life 
of the ancients ? The first thing a child learns 
of ancient history is about the court of Pharaoh ; 
and if we go back to the source of art and 
science, must we not return to Egypt ? " 

In fine, Alma-Tadema' s first visit to Italy 
was a revelation to him. It also extended his 
archaeological learning to such a degree that 
" his brain soon became a complete encyclo- 
paedia of antiquity." Much of his time in 
Rome and other cities was occupied in exploring 
ruined temples, ruined palaces, ruins of amphi- 
theatres, and, in fact, every niche and corner 
reminiscent of a bygone age. Long years 
afterwards these beauties lived, as they had 
already lived in his pictures, in the splendid 
Pompeian home that he reared for himself in 
the heart of foggy London. Or, as one, writer 
has not unworthily expressed it, " the famous 
Dutchman called to life amid the London fog 
the sacrifices of Pompeii and Herculaneum." 

* Professor Ebers died in 1898. 




ROSE OF ALL THE ROSES. 



By Permission of Messrs. Gooden & Fox, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



35 



CHAPTER IV. 

HIS HOME IN ENGLAND. 

ALMA-TADEMA'S first married life lasted 
for about six years, and was fraught with 
much happiness for him. Four years and a half 
after the death of their only son, Madame 
Tadema died at Brussels in May, 1869, leaving 
her husband with two little daughters, Laurence 
and Anna. The elder of these two gifted ladies, 
Miss Laurence Alma-Tadema, is a well-known 
writer of stories, plays, and poems, of estab- 
lished repute. Her plays have been staged 
with success both in London and on the Con- 
tinent. Of her more serious work, Miss Alma- 
Tadema's romance " The Wings of Icarus," and 
the remarkable strength of her tragic playlet 
The Unseen Helmsman, have the most power- 
fully impressed the present writer. Her sister, 
Miss Anna Alma-Tadema, has attained some 
distinction as an artist, having in the first 
instance, of course, studied under her father 
and stepmother. She has won medals at the 
Berlin and Paris Expositions for some par- 
ticularly dainty and distinctive work. 

Too young to have any pictures on view at 
the London Exhibition of 1862, the work of 
Alma-Tadema's brush was already known in 



36 ALMA-TADEMA. 

England, thanks to Gambart, in 1864. In the 
'sixty-two Exhibition, however, the work of at 
least two Belgic masters gained well-deserved 
recognition and honour. Leys showed his 
altogether admirable " Luther Singing the 
Canticles in the Streets of Eisenach," " The 
Institution of the Order of the Golden Fleece/ ' 
and several other important pictures. The 
second Belgian honoured there was Louis 
Gallait, renowned for his " Last Moments of 
Count Egmont " and " Last Honours Paid to 
Counts Egmont and Horn," the latter being 
the ghastly canvas best known to the art 
public as " Les Tetes Coupees." 

I have said that. London was Alma-Tadema's 
obvious goal. In 1865 his work was exhibited 
there for the first time. This was at the old 
French Gallery, where his " Egyptian Games " 
and " Sortie de TEglise " were hung. In 1866 
these were followed by other pictures painted 
for Gambart — " Portico of a Roman Theatre " 
and " Roman Lady Returning from Making Pur- 
chases " — both shown at the French Gallery 
without attracting much apparent attention. 

But that Alma-Tadema was gradually 
winning his way to honourable recognition on 
the part of the English public is shown by this 
tribute from what was at that time the only 
exclusively art journal of the day in reference 
to his exhibit in the French Gallery of 1867 : 
" We cannot close without calling attention to a 
class of remarkable pictures which, founded on 




IN CONFIDENCE. 



By Permission of Messrs. L, H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



HIS HOME IN ENGLAND. 37 

the antique, seeks to reanimate the life of the 
old Romans. In this range of subject, which 
has for the imagination singular fascination, 
Alma-Tadema shows surpassing mastery. 
1 Tibulus' Visit to Delia ' has the merit of 
being a study and feast for the antiquary, so 
careful and true are the restorations. The pig- 
ments are a little opaque, as if the artist had 
carried in his mind the ancient practice of 
tempera. Yet does the painter put forth the 
full power of his palette, and through con- 
trasts and harmonies gain marvellous results." 

Very shortly after the death of his wife 
Alma-Tadema came to London. On arrival in 
the metropolis, his first idea for a studio and 
pied-d-terre was the unromantic vicinity of 
Camden Square, in North London, occupying 
for six months the house and studio of Mr. Fred 
Goodall, R.A.,who was travelling in Egypt during 
that time. But he knew that in St. John's 
Wood and its neighbourhood he would find 
himself surrounded by many leading members 
of the artist community of the metropolis. 
Thither he removed, therefore, on his second 
marriage, which took place on July 29th, 1871. 

Alma-Tadema' s second wife was, as Miss 
Laura Theresa Epps, his pupil from the age of 
eighteen. Since her marriage she has made 
enormous strides with her painting, and among 
her well-deserved honours may be mentioned the 
gold medal of the Berlin Exhibition of 1896 (for 
the admirable painting entitled " Satisfaction") 



3S ALMA-TADEMA. 

and the silver medal of the Paris Exposition 
Universelle of 1900. For twenty years she has 
been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, 
and in her work — more particularly, perhaps, 
in devoting herself to the tradition of the 
old Dutch masters — the influence of her hus- 
band and mentor is frequently observable. 
The best known among her paintings, perhaps, 
are " The Carol,' ' " Persuasion/ ' " The Shadow 
of the Future " (purchased by H.R.H. the 
Prince of Wades), "The Ring," "The New 
Book," "Sisters," " Hush-a-bye," and "The 
Pain of Parting," the last-named having for 
its motto two expressive lines from Burns : 

" I can dee, but carina' part ; 
My bonnie dearie." 

On his marriage with Miss Epps, Alma- 
Tadema ensconced himself and his family in a 
charmingly pretty house (" Townshend House ") 
in Park Road, Regent's Park, and, in intervals of 
his painting, set himself to transform this cosy 
residence into the nearest approach to a Roman 
villa that his knowledge and his resources 
could achieve. The result was equally a source 
of unfeigned delight to himself, his family, and 
his friends. The Tademas continued to reside 
in this " pretty box," as Milton would have 
called it, until 1874, when an untoward event 
drove them first to Rome for the winter of 
1874-5, an d afterwards into larger and more 
commodious premises in St. John's Wood. 






DOLCE FAR NIENTE. 



By Perm : ssion of Messrs. L. H, Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



HIS HOME IN ENGLAND. 39 

The accident referred to was the terrible 
explosion of a barge, laden with some high 
explosive, w T hile passing up Regent's Canal 
in the small hours of the morning. The 
remains of the poor people in charge of the 
boat w r ere never found, all the houses in the 
immediate neighbourhood were more or less 
badly damaged, and some were wrecked. Such 
was the force of this tremendous upheaval 
that, it being feared that some of the cages 
in the Zoological Gardens might have been 
shattered, the gardens were promptly sur- 
rounded by troops from the neighbouring 
barracks, armed with ball cartridge. Fortu- 
nately, this additional calamity had not taken 
place, albeit the shock of the explosion greatly 
alarmed and excited the beasts in the cages. 
They were much too frightened to move, but 
the birds escaped from their damaged cages 
in great numbers, returning, however, to find 
their food. 

Alma-Tadema's residence, from its exposed 
position where the canal intersects Regent's 
Park, suffered severely. His two little girls 
had a really miraculous escape. They were 
aroused by the window-sash being suddenly 
blown on to the bed in which they lay sleeping, 
while at the same time hundreds of hazel-nuts 
(a portion of the cargo of the ill-fated barge) 
were wafted about the wrecked house. 

The place was "restored" by Alma-Tadema's 
own exertions, and was subsequently occupied 



40 ALMA-TADEMA. 

by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, whose generous 
hospitality the present writer well remembers 
having enjoyed there. 

Alma-Tadema' s "A Roman Emperor " was 
painted (for Gambart) during his occupation 
of GoodalFs studio. It was during his resi- 
dence in Rome, after the explosion, that he 
executed the greater part of " An Audience at 
Agrippa's," in every way one of his most sig- 
nificant undertakings, in which " a whole 
historic epoch is crystallised and rendered 
concrete/' It was finished in Brussels, on 
the way to Italy, in 1875. In this fine work 
the artist does not for a moment sacrifice 
the effect of the story to its magical environ- 
ment of mosaics, marbles, statue, and back- 
ground of sky. Alma-Tadema made of this 
subject one of his most noteworthy and most 
universally acclaimed triumphs. 

Although the partial demolition of his 
London home must have been in the nature of 
a heavy blow to Alma-Tadema, he applied him- 
self with characteristic ardour and enthusiasm 
to the task of restoring it. Some years later, 
however, he acquired and proceeded to re- 
construct the mansion, with its extensive 
grounds, in the Grove End Road, which has 
since become one of the most celebrated of 
London's houses. It would be a work of 
supererogation to describe this bouse — or, 
rather, this delicious blend of old Rome, 
old Athens, and of the natural country. 




£ CO 



HIS HOME IN ENGLAND. 41 

" A fireplace of white and coloured marble, 
surmounted by an unusually sightly chimney, 
in the shape of a silvered column with gilt 
capital and base," wrote an early visitor to 
the house, " is one of the features of the lesser 
studio ; also a window of onyx and transparent 
marble, brought from Townshend House. The 
walls, and a low arch at one end of the room, 
are entirely white, but the loftier and greater 
portion of the ceiling is embellished by beams 
and panels of polished woods, principally of 
pitch-pine, which is also the material used for 
the flooring, bookcases, and general woodwork. 

" The studio is on a higher level than its 
companion apartment ; at the head of a short 
flight of steps a small landing with open balus- 
trades overlooks the lower room, the floor of 
which is tiled and the decoration simple. One 
wall is fitted with doors ornamented by plates 
of metal, on which are etched, by Mr. Leopold 
Lowenstam, sketches of Alma-Tadema's ' Four 
Seasons ' ; these doors slide into the wall, 
and leave a wide opening, which communicates 
directly with the garden, making the room 
perfect in summer. In the centre of this 
opening stands a stone column which was 
brought from Brambletye House, in Sussex, 
built in the seventeenth century by a brother 
of Oliver Cromwell.' ' 

For nearly twenty years after entering 
into possession of it, Alma-Tadema and his 
artistic wife laboured at the congenial task 



42 ALMA-TADEMA. 

of rendering their splendid home more and 
more a thing of beauty. Moreover, they have 
been greatly aided in this task by the loving 
efforts of friends and admirers of the master. 
Thus, one of the loveliest features in the entire 
scheme is the unending series of panel-paintings 
wherewith many of Alma-Tadema's distin- 
guished contemporaries have enriched the fine 
entrance hall. Specimens from Boughton, Sar- 
gent, Calderon, Van Haanen, are here. Very 
notable among these dainty panels are " The 
Bath of Psyche " by the late Lord Leighton, 
"A Temple at Philae " by the Hon. John 
Collier, " Cherry Garden Stairs " by Mr. Charles 
Wyllie, "A Bit of Old Hampstead " by Mr. 
Charles Green, " A Landscape " by Mr. H. W. B. 
Davis, and " Apple Blossoms " by Mr. Alfred 
Parsons. In more than one instance these 
" tall, long pictures," as Monkhouse calls them, 
have proved the inspiration for an elaborate 
painting, as was the case with the exquisite 
panel contributed by Lord Leighton. Wonder- 
fully varied as they are, these panels are a 
source of never-ending joy alike to the inmates 
and visitors at Grove End Road. The ex- 
pression " never-ending " is here employed 
advisedly, for with the spacious hall well 
filled they would overflow into other apart- 
ments of the house — that is, so long as Alma- 
Tadema's colleagues and admirers maintained 
the supply. The very idea of the panels was 
a charming tribute to the master's invincible 



HIS HOME IN ENGLAND. 43 

popularity. There are some fifty of them at 
least. Mr. Briton Riviere has contributed a 
beautiful picture of three lions in the night, 
and other contributors are Sir E. J. Poynter, 
P.R.A., Mr. East, Mr. David Murray, and Mr. 
Wirgman — not to mention a delightful speci- 
men of the art of Waterlow, a delicious Dick- 
see, and a hugely characteristic MacWhirter. 

The two studios, Alma-Tadema's and his 
wife's, are an essential feature in the scheme 
of this house. His own is illustrative alike of 
the artist and the man, and it is also a marvel 
of comfortableness, because Alma - Tadema 
works in an " open " studio, where his friends 
may visit him. His wife's spacious studio is 
a boudoir as well, in the style of Dutch Renais- 
sance, and here she " receives " and paints 
away at the quaint and pretty subjects that 
have earned her such high honours from the 
academies of England and the Continent. 

In speaking of Alma-Tadema's first London 
residence, Townshend House, I might have 
mentioned that its attractions included a ceiling 
painted by himself, whilst the classical subjects 
with which he adorned his studio included 
" Venus and Mars " and " Bacchus and Silenus." 
The latter suffered a hard and unromantic fate, 
being irretrievably damaged by the bursting 
of a water-pipe during the occupation of the 
house by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones. 

Alma-Tadema's house in Grove End Road 
was originally numbered seventeen, and seven- 



44 ALMA-TADEMA. 

teen is his " lucky number.' ' Lady Alma- 
Tadema was seventeen when he first met her. 
It was on August 17th (1886) that he began 
to rebuild the house. And it was on No- 
vember 17th, three years later, that he and 
his family went into residence there. More- 
over, Townshend House was No. 17, Tichfield 
Terrace, N.W. 

At the time when he first pitched his tent in 
St. John's Wood, Alma-Tadema could reckon 
among his " neighbours " a large number of 
the most talented men and women in London. 
At one time or another, George Eliot, Tom 
Hood, Douglas Jerrold, Shirley Brooks, Mdlle. 
Titiens, and Hepworth-Dixon were all residents 
of this delightful corner of the metropolis, not 
to mention Landseer and a great many of 
Alma-Tadema's brother-artists. For obvious 
reasons, St. John's Wood must always remain 
a principal resort of the painting fraternity of 
London. 

Lawrence Alma-Tadema was granted letters 
of denization as a British subject in 1873, 
the year in which he finished " The Death of 
the First-born." 




IN THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE. 



Bu Permission of Messrs. L H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



45 



CHAPTER V. 

PICTURES OF THE LATE 'SIXTIES AND THE 
'SEVENTIES. 

IN his laudable ambition for the distinction 
of exhibiting a picture at the Royal 
Academy of London, Alma-Tadema was unfor- 
tunately delayed one whole year by a singularly 
regrettable accident. He particularly desired 
to send a picture entitled " Phidias at Work in 
the Parthenon " to the Academy, but for some 
reason the private purchaser of the painting 
declined to permit it to be publicly exhibited, 
very greatly to the chagrin of the young artist. 
This was in 1868. It was all the more to be 
regretted because in the previous year, as 
already mentioned, he had shown no fewer 
than thirteen pictures at the Paris Exhibition. 
He was awarded the second-class medal of the 
Exposition. 

The picture which might have figured, but 
did not, in the Academy of 1868, shows Phidias 
immediately after he has completed his great 
frieze for the Parthenon. It is therefore a very 
grave and dignified conception, introducing as 
it does the great personages of Athens — Pericles, 



46 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Alcibiades, Aspasia — who have come to view 
the finished work. Truly a lofty and noble 
theme grandly treated, the artist so profoundly 
comprehending how to reproduce the marble 
the sculptor has wrought, and painting the 
colours of the sculpture as he believes they 
were placed. 

In 1865 Alma-Tadema had painted the genre 
picture from the heart of Roman life, " A Lady 
Returning from Market," wherein the porter of 
her house is respectfully opening the door to 
admit the lady, her daughter, and her slaves. 
He followed this up with two different studies 
of Lesbia, these owing their inspiration to the 
poems of Catullus. In the second of these 
Lesbia is weeping over her dead sparrow, the 
effect recalling Juvenal's poem of the maid 

" Who wept until her eyes were red 
Over her darling sparrow dead." 
(" Turbavit cujus nitidos extinctus passer ocellus.") 

With regard to this dainty picture, I be- 
lieve it to be a fact that the critic of a German 
paper complained of Alma-Tadema for having 
made a Roman, " who had no pity for animals," 
weep for the death of a bird ! The artist had 
only to refer this poor gentleman to Catullus. 

The year 1866 found Alma-Tadema sending 
forth from Brussels his " Agrippina with the 
Ashes of Germanicus," " The Entrance to a 
Roman Theatre," " Glaucus and Lydia," and 
f< Preparing for a Festival in a Pompeiian 




A LOVER OF ART. 



In the Corporation Art Galleries, 
Keluingroue, Glasgow. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 47 

House"; this last a picture giving full scope 
to his power and sense of beauty as bril- 
liantly exhibited in the girl weaving garlands 
for the approaching celebration. 

The following year was memorable for the 
artist (apart from the Paris Exposition), as 
in it he completed three elaborate paintings — 
viz. " Tarquinius Superbus," " Claudius Sum- 
moned to the Imperial Throne After the Murder 
of Caligula,"* and " Egyptians Lamenting Their 
Dead." Of these the first-mentioned is a 
superb effort. The arrogant Tarquinius, a 
dominating figure, is seen striking off the heads 
of those poppies which have dared to grow 
taller than the others in the field. Viewed 
sheerly as a piece of painting, this is probably 
the finest conception of a field of poppies ever 
committed to canvas. In " Egyptians Lament- 
ing Their Dead " the widow is bowed in grief at 
the feet of the mummy, and her anguish is 
not less strongly and characteristically por- 
trayed than the surroundings, which are an 
absolute transcript of Egyptian life — and 
death. 

In 1868 Alma-Tadema selected a Greek 
theme, " The Siesta " : 

" In the cool shade rest thee now, 
Fair Bathyllus, in this tree ; 
Through its foliage to and fro 
Zephyr wanders dreamily." 

"The largest picture" (I quote the Art 

* Again treated by the artist several years later. 



48 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Journal) " that Mr. Alma-Tadema, whose 
scale of painting so often rivals that of Meis- 
sonier, apparently ever produced is named 
' The Siesta.' Surrounded by bric-a-brac of 
the period, an older and a younger Greek 
are resting on their couches ; roses, grapes, 
and an amphora of wine are at their elbows, 
and a flute girl stands by to soothe them with 
her music.' ' (This picture is now in the Museum 
of Madrid, and was executed to show how this 
and the three other pictures, part of a decora- 
tion for a dining-room, were intended to be re- 
produced. The other series consisted of " The 
Service," " The Dinner," " The Wine," and 
" The Siesta." " But no one was tempted," says 
Alma-Tadema.) " But it is to works of a more 
characteristic style that we look for the artist's 
personality. As we like literature which is 
literary, poetry which is poetical, and art which 
is artistic ; as we would choose to go to the 
northern countries not in that summer in 
which strangers are wont to see them, but in 
their characteristic winter, and to go to the 
south in its own characteristic heat and summer, 
so in like manner do we enjoy Alma-Tadema 
more the more he is truly representative of 
himself ; not when he is painting in colossal 
size, but when he is making light, space, and 
air play in a little canvas of inches. Such a 
gem is ' Fishing,' hardly surpassed among its 
author's works. A pond in some luxurious classic 
garden has reeds and flowers on its banks ; 




ft * 

O -J 

£ j 

I ! 

DC £ 

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PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 49 

a woman is fishing with a golden wall behind 
her ; and this picture, with its lucid water, 
its exquisite draperies, and its delicate gold, 
is a little school of colour." 

The comparison with Meissonier is of 
surpassing interest. Not less than the French 
master, Alma-Tadema has very frequently 
adopted a microscopic method on a tiny 
canvas. A chief point of divergence is the 
distribution of the interest in a picture in the 
ratio of its significance to the whole. 

During 1868-69 Alma-Tadema was em- 
ployed upon his charming " Flower Girl," 
" The Boudoir," and " The Embarkation," the 
two last being subjects copied from the life 
of Roman citizens. " The Embarkation " be- 
came the property of Mesdag, the Dutch marine 
painter. There was at this time no end to Alma- 
Tadema' s industry. " In ' The Sick Chamber ' * 
(now in the Victoria and Albert Museum), 
and another superb picture which we might 
call ' Before Churching ' — it might have served 
Claus Meyer as a model — he has been pleased 
to join the ranks of the old Netherlanders." 
In 1870 he finished " At Lesbia's " and com- 
menced his beautiful " Vintage " composition, 
with its joyous priestess, lovely maidens, and 
lusty men. This is a long picture, almost 
suggesting that it might have been intended 
for a frieze. It speedily became celebrated on 
the Continent, owing to Blanchard's admirable 
engraving. 

* Better known as "The Visit." 



50 ALMA-TADEMA. 

The famous " Pyrrhic Dance "* was the 
first of Alma-Tadema's pictures to be hung in 
the present Burlington House. This was in 1869. 
It was speedily followed by " The Juggler " 
in 1870, and by " A Roman Emperor " in 1871. 
" In this version/' says Mrs. Edmund Gosse, 
" he ventured upon an entirely new scheme 
of colouring, to the despair, it is said, of certain 
of his clients, who saw in this departure an 
alarming tendency towards Pre-Raphaelitism. 
They felt that the public, which had lately 
learned to accept Mr. Alma-Tadema as an 
expounder of cool white marbles and pale- 
tinted robes, was not being fairly treated ; 
for here he was, boldly introducing a copper- 
headed girl into the crowd of his Roman rabble,, 
and clothing the very bodies of the dead in 
gay-coloured blues and vivid purples, while 
even the purity of the marble floor was not 
only stained with the redness of blood, but 
was everywhere cut up and intersected by 
distracting, many-coloured mosaics. This was, 
indeed, to open out a revolutionary prospect 
into the future ! " 

The theme is best described historically. 
11 When the Praetorian soldiers had killed Cali- 
gula, his family, and the members of his house- 
hold, they were afraid an Emperor would be 
thrust on them by the Senate. To ascertain 
whether any of the Imperial family had 
been forgotten, they returned to the palace 

* For Ruskin's attack see Chapter VIII. 




THE JUGGLER. 

By Permission of the Artist. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 51 

and discovered Claudius hidden behind a 
curtain. They carried him off to their camp, 
on Mount Aventinus, and proclaimed him 
Emperor to the bewilderment of all the world. 
He was the first Emperor who had to pay the 
soldiers for his election ; it was the beginning 
of the end." The picture is now in the Walters' 
Collection, Baltimore, U.S.A. To this Academy 
of 1 871 he likewise contributed " Grand Cham- 
berlain to His Majesty King Sesostris the 
Great." Singularity is perhaps the abiding 
characteristic of this work, which assuredly 
only one artist in the world and in the period 
could have painted. 

Alma-Tadema is at once the fastest and the 
slowest of workers. In proof of this statement 
it is only necessary to compare his huge out- 
put of work in certain years (notably in 1873- 
74) with the two years of labour which he 
expended upon one canvas, " The Finding of 
Moses." With him, however, it is entirely 
a question of mood, and some of his most 
telling successes contain the most rapid of 
his work. 

His first four pictures painted (at Towns- 
hend House) after his second marriage were 
" Pottery," " Reproaches," " Fete Intime," and 
" Cherries." The life-size figure of a woman, 
reclining on a tiger skin and gazing longingly 
upon the fruit she is about to eat, is the basis 
of " Cherries," a very notable success which 
he subsequently presented to the cercle artis- 



52 ALMA-TADEMA. 

tique of Antwerp. Then came " Greek Wine," 
a picture so transcendently sparkling that an 
admiring critic thought the artist must have 
been inspired by the song of Meleagros : 

" Mix, when thou dost fill the goblet, 
With Heliodora's name the draught. 
And on my brow the chaplet set 

She gave me as the wine I quaffed ! 
With tears its roses seem bedewed, 

As though the garland fair doth weep, 
Because within my arms I could 

Not Heliodora's fair form keep." 

* r Like this garland of flowers/' sings a poet 
from the anthology of his Rhodoclea, " thou 
wilt bloom and fade." This fate will also be 
shared by the young Greek wife who in Alma- 
Tadema's work, " The Last Roses," is laying 
the late roses of autumn, as a pious offering, 
on the marble altar. 

I have, for a particular reason, treated of 
"The Death of the First-born" (1873) on 
another page. It was followed in 1874 (a 
wonderfully prolific year) by that most singular 
picture, " Joseph, Overseer of the Granaries " 
— remarkable as being the only one of his 
friend's efforts that Ebers seriously criticised 
—by " Fishing," " Sunny Days," " Water Pets," 
' Antistius Labeon," " A Peep Through the 
Trees," and by " The Sculpture Gallery " and 
" The Picture Gallery," which fairly set the 
seal upon their author's fame. They also 
paved the way for the violent attack by Ruskin 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. .53 

upon the methods of Alma-Tadema which 
was the feature of his " Academy Notes " of 
1875, and was of such a character that it is 
desirable to quote it here in full : 

" The actual facts which Shakespeare knew 
about Rome were in number and accuracy, 
compared to those which Mr. Alma-Tadema 
knows, as the pictures of a child's first story- 
book compared to Smith's ' Dictionary of 
Antiquities.' But when Shakespeare wrote : 

' The noble sister of Publicola, 
The moon of Rome ; chaste as the icicle 
That's curled by the frost from purest snow, 
And hangs on Dian's temple ' — 

he knew Rome herself to the heart ; and Mr. 
Alma-Tadema, after reading his Smith's 
' Dictionary ' through from A to Z, knows 
nothing of her but her shadow ; and that, 
cast at sunset. . . . ' The Sculpture Gallery,' 
I suppose, we must assume to be the principal 
historical piece of the year ; a work showing 
artistic skill and classic learning both in high 
degree. But both parallel in their method of 
selection. The artistic skill has succeeded with 
all its objects in the degree of their unimport- 
ance. The piece of silver plate is painted 
best ; the griffin bas-relief it stands on, second 
best ; the statue of the empress worse than 
the griffins, and the living personages worse 
than the statue. I do not know what feathers 
the fan with the frightful mask in the handle, 



54 ALMA-TADEMA. 

held by the nearest lady, is supposed to be 
made of ; to a simple spectator they look like 
peacock's without the eyes. And, indeed, the 
feathers, under which the motto ' I serve ' of 
French art seems to be written in these days 
are, I think, very literally, all feather and no 
eyes — the raven's feather, to wit, of Sycorax. 
The selection of the subject is similarly — one 
might say filamentous — of the extremity in- 
stead of the centre. The old French Re- 
publicans, reading of Rome, chose such events 
to illustrate her history as the battle of Romulus 
with the Sabines, the vow of the Horatii, or 
the self-martyrdom of Lucretia. The modern 
Republican sees in the Rome he studies so 
profoundly only a central establishment for 
the manufacture and sale of imitation Greek 
articles of vertu. The execution is dexterous, 
but more with mechanical steadiness of prac- 
tice than innate fineness of nerve. It is 
impossible, however, to say how much the 
personal nervous faculty of an artist of this 
calibre is paralysed by his education in schools 
which I could not characterise in my Oxford 
inaugural lectures otherwise than as the ' schools 
of clay,' in which he is never shown what 
Venetians or Florentines meant by ' painting/ 
and allowed to draw his flesh steadily and 
systematically with shadows of charcoal and 
lights of cream soap, without ever considering 
whether there would be any reflections in the 
one or any flush of life in the other. The 




THE SCULPTURE GALLERY. 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 55 

head on the extreme left is exceptionally good ; 
but who ever saw a woman's neck and hand 
blue-black under reflection from white drapery, 
as they are in the nearer figure ? " 

Whether the above be sound or profound 
criticism, it is not for the present writer to 
presume to pass an opinion. It is certainly 
informed by much of the pedantry of style 
and form whereof Ruskin complains so bitterly 
in Alma-Tadema's works, as well as by a power- 
ful leaven of the great critic's passionate love 
forwiiat the French call " fine writing." I ven- 
ture to add a brief extract from another source, 
also in regard to this pair of pictures, merely 
pausing to note that an apparent crime, in 
Ruskin' s judgment, was the selection by Alma- 
Tadema of homely rather than noble or 
historical scenes. 

" It must be boldly admitted," wrote the 
critic of Blackwood's Magazine, " that but one 
painter in Europe could turn out of hand 
' The Sculpture Gallery ' and ' The Picture 
Gallery.' Absolutely illusive in its details is 
the studio of the sculptor. Here sits, in 
marble, the mother of Nero ; we recognise 
the bust of Pericles, and the infant Hercules 
strangling serpents ; Pompeian lamps hang 
from the ceiling ; around are decorative reliefs ; 
and in the midst stands a basalt tazza, rotated 
by a workman, before wondering visitors. As 
usual, the inanimate marbles and metals, 
painted to perfection, are more living than 



56 ALMA-TADEMA. 

flesh and blood ; and some might object to 
the huddling together into one studio of plastic 
works belonging to distant epochs and the 
products of divers lands. But a painter, pro- 
vided only he constructs a good picture, is 
by common consent allowed considerable 
licence. The artist's masterpiece is, we are 
inclined to think, ' The Picture Gallery,' wherein 
a well-known picture dealer, standing in the 
midst, figures as proprietor or cicerone. As 
usual, the archaeology is boldly defiant of 
critical doubts." 

To this I may append a note by the artist 
himself : 

" These two pictures were painted for Gam- 

bart, who had them in his villa at Nice up 

till the last — at least, he had ' The Picture 

Gallery,' the amateur being his own portrait, 

and the other figures men of his business. 

' The Sculpture Gallery ' he afterwards sold 

to Mr. McCulloch in London. The figures in 

it are the portraits of myself and my family." 

After their public exhibition at Berlin — 

where they won for the artist the Great Gold 

Medal, and a few years later led to his securing 

that rare distinction, the Prussian Order of 

Merit — and elsewhere, Gambart jealously kept 

these two pictures in his villa at Nice, only 

showing them to the favoured few, for he 

prized them highly for many reasons. 

Partly in Italy and partly at home (1875), 
the artist relaxed not his efforts, though the 




' • - ' . . 



THE PICTURE GALLERY. 



By Permission of Me srs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 57 

art world of Europe now rang with his fame. 
He completed his " Cleopatra/' and then, re- 
verting to his Gregory of Tours and the 
Merovingian dynasty, he rapidly produced a 
trilogy with the quaint title " The Tragedy 
of an Honest Wife." The honest wife in 
question is the ill-fated Queen Galsvintha, 
and the three canvases treat of (i) her arrival 
with her dowry at her husband's court ; (2) 
her assassination ; and (3) the miracle after 
her death. 

From this digression, " Back to old Rome ! " 
would appear to have been Alma-Tadema's 
cry. " He is Coming " and " After the Dance " 
are in some sense sequels to one another. 
In the first, a rose-clad girl waits impatiently 
for her lover to take her to the feast — the 
festival of Bacchus ; while in the second the 
dance is ended and the tired Bacchante rests 
her weary limbs on a wild beast's skin. 

Alma-Tadema has been very much addicted 
to introducing, with masterly effect, tiger and 
other skins into his pictures of this genre. In 
his magnificent " An Audience at Agrippa's " 
(1875-76) there is an exquisitely painted tiger- 
skin. With this the artist himself was very 
much delighted, remarking to Miss Zimmern, 
" Can't you see him wag his tail ? " This 
scene in the vestibule of the lordly Agrippa's 
palace was destined to attract an immense 
amount of attention, and particularly interested 
and appealed to English audiences. 



58 ALMA-TADEMA. 

" Hide and Seek/' which followed next, 
shows us the Villa Albani at Rome (which 
Alma-Tadema once humorously described as 
" a glorified tea-garden ") with a boy and a girl 
playing the old-fashioned game. The picture 
is further remarkable for its humour, its per- 
spective, and its wonderful marbled effects. 
" A Nymphaum,'' again, is a study of a 
balneatrix descending into the bath, where, 
in the distance, women are bathing. " Hope 
and Fear " is an inimitable study of an 
old man, Grecian in mould and form ; his 
daughter, armed with a bouquet of roses and 
myrtle, choosing the meal-time to ask her 
father to be allowed to marry the one she 
loves. 

Meanwhile, Alma-Tadema had been elected 
an Associate of the Royal Academy, to be 
followed by the fuller title of Academician three 
years afterwards — namely, in 1879. After 
" The Death of the First-born " it had been 
impossible for the authorities longer to neglect 
his claims to honourable distinction. The news 
of his election to an Associateship came to 
cheer him up during his enforced stay in 
Rome subsequent to the wreck of Townshend 
House. 

The idea of a life-size figure, to be entitled 
" The Sculptor's Model," was suggested to 
Alma-Tadema' s mind by the discovery, in 1874, 
of the so-called Venus of Esquiline. He com- 
pleted this great canvas in 1877. The purity 




THERE HE IS! 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 59 

of the conception, the wonderful flesh tints 
and the slender girlishness of the nude figure, 
formed a most compelling combination of 
charm before which every note save undivided 
admiration was silent. The girl is holding up 
her hair with one hand, the other resting 
upon a feathery fern, while the general attitude 
appears to signify a certain vexation at the 
monotony of a model's task. Alma-Tadema has 
reason to be proud of this creation of his. It 
exhibited his genius in yet another varying 
form and phase, and it considerably heightened 
his reputation among those best qualified to 
judge. 

Previous to his departure for another Italian 
visit in 1878, he painted the dainty little 
pastoral of Pompeian life, " A Loving Welcome. " 
Father, mother, servant, and dog are all greeting 
the little daughter who has returned home in 
safety. The male parent, evidently a " literary 
man " of the period, has hastily deserted his 
writing to greet the little wanderer. It is a 
picture replete with a joyousness that shines 
out of all the accessories as well — the garden 
with its beautiful coloured flowers, the glow 
of the tints — and you even seem to hear the 
very plash of the fountain joining in the wel- 
come. The portraits in this picture are those 
of the artist himself, his wife, and daughters. 
The work was a commission from Sir Henry 
Thompson, whose portrait Alma-Tadema has 
also painted. 



60 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Nor must mention be omitted here of 
" Fredegonda and Galsvintha," a life-size can- 
vas in which he returns for the moment to 
his Merovingians. In painting this fine work 
he drew upon his trilogy of " The Tragedy of 
an Honest Wife." (f We see the chagrined 
Fredegonda watching with bowed head while 
Chilperic, the husband who is hers no more, 
is engaged in the great Frankish marriage 
ceremony — ' breaking the willow branch ' — 
with her hated rival Galsvintha. Near by an 
attendant on the bride bears, mounted on a 
long staff, the crown of gold of the Visigoths. 
The scene is effectively backgrounded by the 
church of red brick. The artist has rendered 
with tremendous power and fidelity the state 
of the wretched Fredegonda' s mind as re- 
vealed in her countenance. The colouring 
and grouping generally are characteristically 
wonderful.' ' This picture is now in the Museum 
at Vienna. 

Nine of his collected works, headed by 
" The Death of the First-born," went to Paris 
for the Exposition Universelle of 1878. The 
reader will not be surprised to learn that the 
master's chef-d'ceuvre had carried off the 
Gold Medal. 

To the year 1879 belongs a particularly 
delicate study, " Well-protected Slumber." 
" Pomona's Festival " consists of dancers 
gyrating around a tree, whilst " After the 
Audience " was the humorous outcome of a 




fc^'V 



io 








X 



GOD-SPEED. 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



PICTURES OF THE 'SEVENTIES. 61 

request to the artist that he should paint a 
sequel or pendant to his " Audience at 
Agrippa's." The recent petitioners are de- 
picted wending their way homewards, their 
backs turned to the spectators. It is noticeable 
that in all his output Alma-Tadema has never 
wearied of inserting quiet touches of humour 
such as this. 



62 



CHAPTER VI. 

" THE DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN," " THE 
FOUR . SEASONS," AND " SAPPHO." 

IT was in 1873 that Alma-Tadema gave to 
the world the great picture which must stand 
for all time as the supreme test of his genius. 
A few words may suffice to describe the leading 
characteristics of this conception of the last 
plague of Egypt. The beautiful dead first- 
born lies in the lap of the king (who, finding 
the doctor's advice of no avail, has gone to 
the temple to pray the gods for help), but 
with head resting against the mother's knees. 
A bandage surrounds the dead child's brow ; 
his arm hangs down limp and motionless. 
Pharaoh sits as one petrified, but the mother 
in her passionate grief presses her cheek to 
the boy's pulseless heart. The baffled phy- 
sician crouches by the side of the stricken 
monarch. At Pharaoh's feet the priests have 
flung themselves in circle around him, to pray 
for the first-born's recovery. Behind them the 
music and chanters join in chorus to induce the 
gods to yield ; and through the doorway one 
sees Moses and Aaron, awaiting the tyrant's 
final decision. The canvas is a low one, con- 
veying a remarkable effect of the presumed 



"THE DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN." 63 

height of the apartment. It is in every way 
an epoch-making picture. 

Ebers' recorded opinion was : " The most 
touching painting ever created by an artist's 
genius." 

Gnauth's criticism was : " This picture pro- 
duces the impression of a divine hymn." 

It is well known to be the one inspiration 
of his whereby Alma-Tadema is content to be 
judged. The painting is a prized possession, 
and it will always remain the cherished pro- 
perty of his descendants. It was commenced 
in 1857, was finished at Townshend House, and 
was exhibited not only in the Royal Academy 
of 1874, but also in Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, 
adorning the autumn art exhibition in the 
German capital. At Paris, in 1864, it won 
the Gold Medal. Professor Ebers, approach- 
ing it from the standpoint of the Egyptolo- 
gist as well as of the artist, found it altogether 
faultless in exactness of detail as of treatment. 
And it has to be borne in mind that Alma- 
Tadema was an entire stranger to the land of 
Pharaoh (except for studying its antiquity and 
art) until years afterwards. 

" There is one instance, one only/' remarked 
a writer in the Art Journal in praise of this 
superb effort, " in which the painter of allegresse 
has with a serious intention attempted tragedy. 
And, unexpectedly enough, this is understood 
to be the artist's own favourite work, and the 
one which he retains as his own possession. 



64 ALMA-TADEMA. 

An Egyptian subject, it is treated with the 
principal of Egyptian qualities — repose. The 
last worst plague sent upon the oppressors of 
Israel is shown striking the beloved young 
first-born, a slender adolescent who lies across 
his mother's knees. She sits in her monumental 
grief while slaves crouch near in the formal 
attitude of sorrow. The picture expresses 
silence, and the painter has avoided any demon- 
strative expression in the eyes of his sufferers. 
The colour is rich and low, and thus altogether 
an antithesis to the sweet brilliance of Mr. 
Alma-Tadema's habitual work. And this brings 
us to one of his greatest merits as a colourist 
— the quality of colour significance. ..." 

There was literally not one dissentient voice 
in either the public or the critical appreciation 
of this great work. It is an astonishing tour 
de force. The Art Journal is scarcely accurate, 
however, in surmising that it is the only in- 
stance where the artist has " with a serious 
intention " attempted high tragedy. 

In a rather remarkable romance of old 
Egyptian mysticism I came across a passage 
which is quoted here as giving in some sort 
an impression of the awe-inspiring Ten Plagues 
as suggested by the quiet horror of Alma- 
Tadema's great conception : 

" Did not the king cover his eyes as he 
prayed to Osiris to save the land from the evil 
that had befallen his house ? Oh, that awful 
day, spoken of with dread till the later evils 



"THE FOUR SEASONS." 65 

surpassed and hid it ! I woke in the morning, 
and, going to the bath, it was blood ! I looked 
from the window over the river ; it was blood ! 
Blood, clammy and cold and everywhere ! I, 
even I, ran to the king where he sat brave and 
noble on his throne, giving audience to his 
councillors, and the fountains in the council 
court were blood too ! And they said, ' It is 
the man Moses that has done this thing,' and 
I would have had the king kill him ; yet he 
would not, so that the punishment of the gods 
fell on him at a later day, and he and all his 
brave host were lost in the cruel sea." 

Turn we now from this to more winsome 
themes. It is not merely for the sake of con- 
trast that I have selected " The Four Seasons," 
painted in 1878-79, for separate treatment in 
this chapter. As a matter of fact, this cycle of 
pictures forms one of the most important of 
all the master's efforts. The first in order, 
" Spring," shows a lovely young girl roaming a 
delicious meadow, the while she ponders what 
shall she do with the beautiful blossom that 
she holds in her hand. It is a picture filled 
with magical suggestion, rich in colour, and 
one into which he who runs may read his own 
secret. 

Number two, " Summer," is the interior of 
one of the Roman bathrooms that the artist 
knows so well how to treat. The languid 
beauty sunk in the bath lazily fans herself with 
an ostrich fan while her sister reclines on a bench 



66 ALMA-TADEMA. 

fast asleep. Petals of summer blossoms float 
on the surface of the water. This picture gives 
full play to Alma-Tadema's skill in the painting 
of rich- veined marble and bronze, for the bath 
is lined with bronze. 

In " Autumn " we find portrayed all the 
adjuncts to a thanksgiving for the year's 
vintage, headed by the vine-leaved, bearded 
Silenus. A garlanded Bacchante whirls in the 
dance around the sacrificial altar, with torch 
and wine-cup in her hands. A study full of 
warmth and movement and the joy of living. 

The fourth and last " Season " introduces us 
to a winter of poverty but not of squalor. A 
poor family are sheltering and discussing a 
frugal meal beneath the shadow of a tall 
column, and the young mother and child are 
interesting studies in what is in some respects 
the most interesting of this quartet of 
" Seasons." 

These pictures were commenced in Rome. 
Apart from the attention which they attracted 
when exhibited, they have become familiar to 
a very large public, thanks to the excellence 
of Blan chard's engravings of them. 

About this time, too, " The Parting Kiss " 
came from Alma-Tadema's brush. It is a 
favourite child of his, this canvas, and still 
more so is another version entitled " The 
Departure," in which the delightful Pompeian 
mother and daughter are the artist's own 
wife and his daughter Anna, and the bust 




THE PARTING KISS. 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



"THE QUESTION." 67 

of the father looking down upon them is that 
of Alma-Tadema himself. Since his marriage to 
Miss Epps he had frequently reproduced her 
wonderful red-gold hair in his pictures, and it 
was often remarked that his types of fair 
womanhood became more and more English 
in form and in colouring as the years slipped 
by. This particular painting became the 
property of Georg Ebers, the cherished friend 
of all three figures therein delineated, and very 
prettily does Ebers remark that " paintings 
are like children.* ' 

Further mention of Ebers recalls the cir- 
cumstance that his friend's tiniest picture, 
"The Question " (1878), inspired him with the 
idea for a novel. The subject seems simplicity 
itself — a youth putting a question — the question , 
we will venture to presume — to a young girl 
who sits by the sapphire sea with her lap full 
of roses. Shown at the Exhibition in Munich 
in 1879, this dainty little picture proved itself 
possessed of power to attract over and above 
all its competitors. Ebers first based upon it 
a poem, of which the following translation 
from the German is by Miss Mary Safford, of 
America : — 

" In the Art-palace on green Isar's strand 
Before one picture long I kept my seat ; 
It held me spellbound by some magic band, 
Nor, when my home I sought, could I forget. 

" A year elapsed ; came winter's frost and snow ; 
'Twas rarely now we saw the bright sunshine. 



68 ALMA-TADEMA. 

I plucked up courage and cried, ' Be it so ! ' 
Then southward wandered with those I call mine. 

" Like birds of passage built we there a nest 
On a palm-shaded shore all steeped in light ; 
Life was a holiday, enjoyed with zest 
And grateful hearts the while it winged its flight. 

" Oft on the sea's wide, purplish blue expanse, 
With ever new delight I fixed my eyes ; 
Tadema's picture, now at every glance 

Recalled to mind, a thousand times would rise. 

"Once a day dawned, glad as a bride's fair face. 
Perfume and light and joy it did enfold ; 
Then, without search, flitted from out of space 
Words for the tale that my friend's picture told." 

From this poem, then, grew Ebers'' idyl, 
" A Question," a tale of Sicilian life. The 
" question " of its title is : Shall the lovely 
Xanthe marry her childhood's playfellow Phaon, 
or shall she take Leonax of Messina ? The old 
housekeeper Semestre favours the latter, and 
Xanthe wavers because she is told that Phaon 
has spent his nights rioting with flute-women. 
She finds him sleeping on a bench in the 
garden, sits by him till he wakes, and tearfully 
reproaches him with his wantonness. But on 
discovering that Phaon' s sleepless nights have 
been spent in her father's olive-groves, in order 
that he might protect them from thieves, she 
at once relents, and the happy pair are be- 
trothed. 

In 1879 (the year in which the full honours 




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"A ROMAN EMPEROR, A.D. 41." 69 

of our Royal Academy of Arts were awarded 
him), Alma-Tadema produced four very varied 
canvases in " Down to the River/' " Not at 
Home," " The Garden Altar," and " The Temple 
of Ceres," in addition to " Well-protected 
Slumber." In " Not at Home " a Roman girl 
is telling a polite " fib " to a caller, a Roman 
gentleman, who, half-suspecting, gazes in as 
if longing to catch a glimpse of the lady for 
whom he is obviously enquiring. 

In the ensuing year appeared his truly 
sensational " Ave, Caesar ! 16 Saturnalia ! " this 
being the third occasion when he had striven 
to depict the (to him) most appealing tragedy 
of Caligula and Claudius. He had previously 
essayed it, the reader will recall, in " Claudius " 
and " A Roman Emperor, a.d. 41," both 
painted for Gambart. In speaking to me of this 
third and last Claudius picture, Alma-Tadema 
mentioned how deeply and completely he had 
saturated himself with every aspect of the 
fascinating subject. He added that it had 
always appeared to him that this election of 
an Emperor by the army in opposition to the 
Senate — in utter contradistinction to all that 
had gone before — actively foreshadowed the 
ultimate downfall of Rome. Like his two 
former variants of it, this picture is all 
blood, mosaics, armed men, cold glittering 
steel and gleaming marble, forming a grim 
and appalling ensemble. But the touch of 
humour is still not wanting ! 



70 ALMA-TADEMA. 

As if for the sake of contrast pure and 
simple, he immediately followed up " Ave, 
Caesar ! " with " Sappho " (1881), a pure and 
beautiful idyl, inspired by those lines telling 
of the love of the poet of Mitylene for the 
female Homer : 

" Surely thou know'st how, in the Lesbian land, 
Alcaeus oft the festal dances led. 

Kindled by Sappho's charms, fierce glowed love's brand, 
As, lauding her in song, the lute he played." 

The conception is a noble and striking one, 
thoughtfully and beautifully reasoned in every 
detail, whilst the pictured scene, the " Lesbian 
strand/' is almost exactly expressed in the 
lines just quoted. It was exhibited at Burling- 
ton House, where it was the great picture of 
1881. 

The clever remark of a tiny child is recorded 
d ftropos of the master's " Sappho." 

" I feel when I look at that picture," said 
the mite, " I should like to wear clothes like 
that — I am so hot in these ! " 

Could there be a happier compliment paid 
to at least one phase of the artist's expressed 
intention ? " Sappho " makes for the glory of 
cool-looking, cool-tinted robes, worn by the 
side of " quiet sands and seas." It is in the 
full sense of a sweet environment such as this 
one may have been that the genius of Lawrence 
Alma-Tadema shines out most supreme. 




AN OLEANDER 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeure & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



7* 



CHAPTER VII. 

HIS COLLECTED WORKS IN LONDON — PICTURES 
OF THE 'EIGHTIES. 

THAT which falls to the lot of every success- 
ful modern painter — the public exhibition 
of his collected works — became inevitable in the 
case of Alma-Tadema very early in the 'eighties. 
The chosen place was the Grosvenor Gallery 
in London, where the collected pictures of 
most of his great contemporaries have been 
shown from time to time. The chosen year 
was the winter season of 1882-83, and in the 
majority of instances public galleries and private 
purchasers co-operated loyally in striving to 
make the collection as complete as possible. 
That exquisitely grim little picture " Ave, 
Caesar ! 16 Saturnalia ! " was there, and the 
artist himself of course contributed " The 
Death of the First-born." His first subject 
from the Land of the Ptolemies, " Egyptians 
Three Thousand Years Ago," painted in 1863, 
was lent by Mr. J. Dewhurst. Still earlier 
subjects, the famous " Education of the Children 
of Clovis " and " Clotilde at the Tomb of her 
Grandchildren," were sent by their respective 
owners, the King of the Belgians and M. Jules 
Verespeerewen, and were fittingly hung side 



72 ALMA-TADEMA. 

by side as belonging to the same epoch. That 
remarkable picture, " The Juggler/' was there, 
and so also was the artist's conception of 
Cleopatra and, for the first time in London, 
" After the Audience." 

In all, some one hundred and fifty of his 
pictures were gathered together at the Gros- 
venor. The exhibition could not be entirety 
complete, seeing that the prohibitive American 
tariff prevented the inclusion of a number of 
important paintings which had been sold in 
that country ; but it was thoroughly represent- 
ative of his art. Not the least interesting or 
attractive exhibit was the portrait of the artist 
painted by himself at the age of sixteen (in 
1852), the dominant characteristics of which 
are a vigour and an earnestness filled with the 
promise of fulfilment. " The Question " was 
also there. In a word, visitors to the gallery 
had an opportunity of appraising both the 
earliest and the latest works of the artist. 

A scholarly critic of Blackwood's, writing 
while Alma-Tadema's pictures were being ex- 
hibited at the Grosvenor, instituted a compari- 
son between the artist's Roman and Egyptian 
forms — a comparison somewhat unfavourable 
to the latter. This critic, if acclaiming " The 
Death of the First-born" as one of the 
greatest works of the age that produced it, 
finds others of the master's subjects treating 
of old Nilus of rather unequal merit. Thus, 
he is unkind enough to suggest that " The 




THE TORCH-DANCE. 



By Permission of Messrs. L. H. Lefeura & Son, 
the Owners of the Copyright. 



THE GROSVENOR EXHIBITION. 73 

Juggler " is suggestive of a mummy, and that 
in the case of " Cleopatra " the onlooker is 
" not spellbound under her beauty, but with 
cold curiosity counts up the details, admires 
accessories, and stands wonderstruck at the 
painter's cleverness and sleight of hand." In 
the next paragraph it is admitted that Alma- 
Tadema occupies a high place amongst the 
few really great painters of Europe. 

Far less original is this critic of Blackwood 
when he makes the supreme discovery that, 
" had the whole of Europe been searched, two 
stronger opposites could not have been 
discovered than Dante Rossetti and Alma- 
Tadema." Has anybody ever questioned it ? 
Surely there could be no conceivably greater 
contrasts, in every way of art and life, than 
the ill-starred, splendid Italian Rossetti and the 
brilliant, optimistic Frieslander Alma-Tadema ? 
Of the latter it is conceded that ''if he is not 
precisely a poet, he has moments of poetic 
thought when he combines the old sense of 
line and form with the modern love of land- 
scape." 

In 1 88 1 the artist's output had included, 
in addition to " Sappho," " Quiet Pets " (a 
lady playing with tortoises), " An Audience " 
(three Roman women in profile), " Pandora " 
(a water-colour), " The Tepidarium," and a 
Bacchante subject, "The Torch Dance" — an 
exceptionally heavy year of work even for 
him. In the following year came, in addition 



74 ALMA-TADEMA. 

to a very striking portrait of Herr Ludwig 
Barnay as Marc Antony (" the Antony of 
Shakespeare rather than of history "), "En 
Repos," his second conception of " Cleopatra/' 
" Reflection; , and " Young Affections." The 
last-mentioned shows us a beautiful garden 
scene with the figures of a woman and child, 
all filled in with masses of delicate blossoms and 
foliage. And mention of flowers reminds us that, 
according to Ebers, Alma-Tadema was once 
(1883) " fascinated for weeks by a large oleander 
which he had taken with him from Brussels 
to London, where for the first time it covered 
itself with blossoms." He would not rest 
satisfied until its rose-tinted glories had been 
transferred to canvas, and the charming result 
he simply entitles " Oleanders." A woman 
dressed in blue and dark green is standing 
under the shadow of the gorgeous tree, which 
is backgrounded against a red wall, an additional 
effect — one of the artist's very best and subtlest 
— being imparted by the sun shining through 
the leaves on water. The happy accident of 
Alma-Tadema having brought these oleanders 
from Belgium is to be held responsible, there- 
fore, for one of the happiest of his fancies in 
delineation and in treatment. 

It was while the very gratifying and 
eminently successful exhibition was in pro- 
gress at the Grosvenor that Alma-Tadema 
worked upon a picture to which he gave the 
title " Shy." It is touched by a very delicate 




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lil g o 



PICTURES OF THE 'EIGHTIES. 75 

humour, representing as it does a Grecian 
youth presenting his offering of Alma-Tadema' s 
favourite roses, through one of Alma-Tadema' s 
favourite doorways, to his ladylove, who turns 
her charming face away and is discreetly 
" shy." This picture resides in America now, 
having been painted for Mr. Theodore Miller. 
Alma-Tadema's diploma picture for the Royal 
Academy (1883) next demands a word. He 
entitled it "On the Way to the Temple." 
The foreground is filled by a priestess sitting 
under the portico of a Greek temple. The 
sun-rays shine fiercely down on the marble of 
the building, through whose open doorway the 
rejoicing Bacchanalians pass on their way to 
do homage to the god of their worship. 

" Hadrian Visiting a Pottery in Britain " is 
also a successful work of Alma-Tadema. Its 
composition and all details are indeed exquisite. 
Did he not transfer the intimate life of the 
ancient Britons to the modern theatre when 
Irving staged Cymbeline ? And he has, of 
course, always been an ardent admirer and 
thorough connoisseur of antique vessels. In this 
picture of the Emperor Hadrian, does Alma- 
Tadema wish (inquires one critic) to show his 
gratitude to the daughter of Dibutades the 
potter, who, according to tradition, invented 
his own art, painting ? This canvas was an 
unusually large one, and it has since been cut 
up into three portions. It was painted at the 
suggestion of Mr. Minton. The best description 



76 ALMA-TADEMA. 

of the work that has come under my notice 
is from the pen of Miss Helen Zimmern, who 
reviewed it at considerable length shortly after 
it was first publicly exhibited. Miss Zimmern 
says : 

" The Academy picture of 1884 was the 
celebrated ' Hadrian in England/ and is re- 
markable for several reasons ; because it is 
the first time that Tadema dealt with Roman 
Britain, a period well-nigh absolutely neglected ; 
and also because it is one of his largest works. 
At the top of the picture stands the Emperor, 
who with his followers is visiting a Romano- 
British pottery, probably a famous one of the 
period. The master-potter is showing his work, 
and the Emperor looks on with a kind of resigned 
determination that is excellently hit off. He 
is going to ' do ' this thing, and though perhaps 
in his heart he does not feel much interested 
or capable of ' living up ' to these pots, he 
will go through with his task to the bitter end. 
His toga is of beautiful purple, his tunic crim- 
son, the other garments quieter in tone. Be- 
hind him stands his friend, Lucius Verus, one 
of the best figures in the work. There is that 
in the full coarse lips and eyes, in the indolent 
pose as he leans lazily upon a staff, which tells 
a whole history. He is a type not merely of 
a luxurious Roman, but of a luxurious man. 
To the Emperor's right stand Balbilla, a blue- 
stocking of her time, and the Empress, the 
latter talking with the potter's wife, whose 




HADRIAN VISITING A POTTERY IN BRITAIN. 
By Permission of the Artist. 



PICTURES Or THE 'EIGHTIES. 77 

blue gown contrasts admirably with the rich 
reds. These are all grouped on a gallery, from 
which a flight of steps descends to the bottom 
of the picture. On it, his back towards us, 
is a slave, who, tray in hands, bears vases for 
inspection by the Emperor. He is followed 
by another slave, and the two fill the lower 
part of the picture. Beneath the arch of the 
gallery is a room where the potters are at work, 
small in scale ; but that to many persons is the 
most interesting portion of the whole picture. 
There is a charm about this workshop which is 
wanting in the other groups and figures. The 
corridor is adorned with a picture of Mercury, 
and on the shelves in an alcove are seen speci- 
mens of black and grey pottery of exquisite 
form and colour. But one of the most effective 
bits, one of those interesting little reproductions 
of antique life in which Alma-Tadema is so 
eminently happy, represents the altar of the 
household god. A snake is painted round it, 
and by a little lamp there is placed a votive 
offering of onions, sacred to the Penates. The 
potters have painted this inscription as a wel- 
come to their Emperor : 

" ' Ave, Imperator Caesar, 
Divi Trajani Parth. filius, 
Divi Nervae nepos, 

Trajanus Hadrianus, 
Locupletator Orbis.' " 

In 1884, too, Alma-Tadema made a great ad- 
vance as a portrait painter. At the Grosvenor he 



7$ ALMA-TADEMA. 

exhibited two interesting portrait studies, those 
of Amendola, the Italian sculptor, who is limned 
in his studio blouse working upon a silver 
statuette of Lady (then Mrs.) Alma-Tadema, 
and of Lowenstam, the etcher, also engaged 
at his work. The light and shade of this 
Lowenstam portrait are very noteworthy. 
Alma-Tadema also painted a striking portrait of 
his brother-in-law, Dr. Epps, who is shown — 
also at his work — watch in hand, seated at the 
bedside of a patient. This was followed, in 
the next year, by a picture of " My Youngest 
Daughter," wherein the artist father made a 
most enchanting study of his artist daughter. 
With the possible criticism that the details 
are a little unduly elaborated, this picture will 
always stand as one of Alma-Tadema' s most 
successful examples in portraiture. 

It is scarcely conceivable that Alma-Tadema 
should have painted " A Reading from Homer " 
in two months ! I allude to the time occupied 
in the actual painting of this five-figure sub- 
ject, since it is admitted that eight months 
were employed in the studies for it, and in 
work upon a picture which the master intended 
to call " Plato/' but which he ultimately 
abandoned. " A Reading from Homer " is 
a large canvas. One is struck by the com- 
pelling beauty of expression in the faces both 
of the reader and his audience. Entranced and 
spellbound, they recline listening to the musical 
words of the bard, interpreted, we cannot 




MISS ANNA ALMA-TAD EM A. 



By Permission of the Berlin Photographic Co. 
London, W. 



PICTURES OF THE 'EIGHTIES. 79 

doubt, by a voice worthy of the occasion. 
All the faces are transfigured as they listen 
to that enchanting strain. The reader is 
laurel-wreathed, the lady is not less suitably 
daffodil-crowned. The numerous accessories 
forming the setting to an idyllic theme are 
none the less effective because inevitable in 
this particular environment. It might not un- 
fittingly be regarded as a kind of companion 
painting to " Sappho." 

It was hung in the Burlington House Exhi- 
bition of 1885, making a great and well-deserved 
sensation. In few subjects has the master sur- 
passed the delicate and delicious flesh-tints of 
this grand picture. The criticism that the 
reader " holds the stage/' so to speak, is met 
by the answering query — Who else should do 
so if not the actual interpreter of the magic 
bard ? 

A small but bewitching canvas, " The 
Apodyterium," was the next outcome of his 
ever-fruitful imagination. The word means 
the tiring-room of a ladies' bath in ancient 
Rome. Every inch of the canvas is utilised 
to richest advantage, and loud were the 
expressions of admiration heard from the many 
who saw it in the Academy of that year. 

The subject whereby he was represented 
in 1887, one of his most daring creations, was 
entitled " The Women of Amphissa." It brings 
to life the market-place of the ancient town, 
with a troupe of wandering Bacchantes lying 



So ALMA-TADEMA. 

about in every imaginable attitude of exhaustion 
and languor. If this is a bold conception, what 
shall be said of the marvellous colouring of 
his picture of the following year, " The Roses 
of Heliogabalus " ? This veritable fascination 
of colour-form finds itself in the rain of roses 
with which the guests of Heliogabalus are being 
pelted and covered. As Monkhouse happily 
phrased it, " His real progress was in freedom 
of draughtsmanship, in perception of beauty, 
in subtlety and exquisiteness of colour, in 
directness of pictorial intention, in gaiety of 
spirit. He teaches less, but he pleases more. 
May I add in a whisper that he gets more 
modern as he gets more human, using art only 
as a drapery for nature and the past as a 
cloak for the present." In him the artist 
had become the master of the archaeologist. 

" The Women of Amphissa " contains no 
fewer than forty figures. It was one of the 
only two subjects of Alma-Tadema that were 
sent to the Paris Exhibition of 1889, the other 
being his charming " Expectations/' He was 
again awarded the Gold Medal, as he had been 
eleven years previously. 

Amphissa was a city near Mount Parnassus, 
and the legend refers to the year B.C. 350. 
When the despots of Phocis seized upon Delphi, 
and the Thebans " made that war called the 
Holy upon them, it chanced that the women 
sacred to Dionysus (who were named Thyades), 
going mad with passion and wandering by 




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PICTURES OF THE 'EIGHTIES. 81 

night, came unawares to Amphissa, where, 
being weary and not yet returned in their 
right wits, they threw themselves down in the 
market-place, and, scattered here and there, 
lay sleeping. Whereupon the wives of the 
Amphissians, fearing (since the city of Phocis 
was allied to them, and many of the tyrant 
soldiers were about) lest the Thyades should 
not preserve their purity, ran all together to 
the market-place, and silently stood in a circle 
round them ; nor indeed, approached them 
while they slept, but as soon as they had risen 
tended them and brought them food, and after- 
wards went forth with them in safety, even 
to the boundaries of their own land." 

To the Academy of 1889 he contributed 
" The Shrine of Venus." This " shrine " is the 
interior of a Roman hair-dresser's emporium, 
whither have wandered two beautiful young 
girls to be suitably coiffured. So much ab- 
sorbed are they that they barely take note of 
a tall, handsome matron, who, in passing 
towards the inner room, places her offering be- 
fore the shrine of Venus. As she sweeps past the 
matron adds a marigold to the heap of varie- 
gated blossoms on a marble table in front of 
the shrine. At the counter- window some atten- 
dants, very skilfully drawn, are seen attending 
to other customers, and the glimpse of blue 
sky and the blue vase so skilfully set most 
happily combine with the view of distant 
buildings. 



82 



CHAPTER VIII. 

SOME OF HIS CRITICS. 

IT was by no means immediately or universally 
admitted that Alma-Tadema had served an 
altogether admirable purpose by bringing a 
new note into British art. The new note had 
to be admitted ; for there it was, dominant, 
resourceful, unimitative but not unimaginative, 
wholly original but not wholly unchallenged. 
The most important of the artist's critics — 
if by " important " is meant a certain place 
in the literary firmament — were Ruskin, 
Whistler, Professor Ebers, and Cosmo Monk- 
house. Every one of these has passed away, but 
their words live after them. We have already 
seen what Ruskin wrote of " The Sculpture 
Gallery," and we will presently see what was 
the result of a longer and presumably closer 
scrutiny of the paintings on his part. For 
Mr. Whistler, the artist-critic's onslaught upon 
Alma-Tadema' s work is too ill-reasoned to call 
for serious comment here, though in another 
place he speaks of Alma-Tadema' s " sympho- 
nies " and " harmonies " of colour. For Ebers, 
we have previously noted that his comments 
were liable to be biassed, and his freedom of 
judgment blinded, by a too great and absorbing 



THE CRITICS. 83 

enthusiasm — an adoring veneration, so to speak 
— for Alma-Tadema as an artist. For the late 
Cosmo Monkhouse, both in his fugitive writings 
and in the Alma-Tadema section of his in- 
forming work, " Contemporary British Artists/' 
he displays a sound knowledge and apprecia- 
tion tempered throughout by soundest and 
strictest judgment. 

But Ruskin was prejudiced, and he took 
no trouble to conceal his prejudice. Thus 
much must be admitted, whatever value we 
place upon his criticisms. In 1884 he returned 
to the charge, in the course of his Oxford 
lectures during his second tenure of the Slade 
Scholarship. Then and there he said : 

" M. Alma-Tadema differs from all the 
artists I have ever known, except John Lewis, 
in the gradual increase of technical accuracy, 
which attends and enhances together the ex- 
panding range of his dramatic invention ; while 
every year he displays more varied and com- 
plex powers of minute draughtsmanship, more 
especially in architectural detail, wherein, some- 
what priding myself as a specialty, I never- 
theless receive continual lessons from him ; 
except only in this one point — that, with me, 
the translucency and glow of marble is the 
principal character of its substance, while with 
M. Tadema it is chiefly the superficial lustre 
and veining which seem to attract him ; and 
these also seen, not in the strength of southern 
sun, but in the cool twilight of luxurious 



84 ALMA-TADEMA. 

chambers. With which insufficient — not to say 
degrading — choice of architectural colour and 
shade, there is a fallacy in his classic idealism 
against which, while I respectfully acknow- 
ledge his scholarship and his earnestness, it is 
necessary that you should be gravely and con- 
clusively warned. . . . 

" Now observe, that whether of Greek or 
Roman life, M. Alma-Tadema's pictures are 
always in twilight. ... I don't know if you 
saw the collection of them last year at the 
Grosvenor, but with that universal twilight 
there was also universal crouching or lolling 
posture, either in fear or laziness. And the 
most gloomy, the most crouching, the most 
dastardly of all these representations of classic 
life was the little picture called the ( Pyrrhic 
Dance/ of which the general effect was exactly 
like a microscopic view of a small detachment 
of blackbeetles in search of a dead rat. . . . 
Since the day of the opening of the great 
Manchester Exhibition in 185 1, every English- 
man desiring to express interest in the arts 
considers it his duty to assert with Keats that 
a thing of beauty is a joy for ever. I do not 
know in what sense the saying was understood 
by the Manchester school. A beautiful thing 
may exist but for a moment as a reality ; it 
exists for ever as a testimony." 

Side by side with Ruskin's harsh judgment 
we will place a German estimate. According to 
the author of "Modern Painting," Alma-Tadema 



THE CRITICS. 85 

" stands to this grave academic group 
[Leighton, Poynter, Val Prinsep] as Gerome 
to Couture. As Bulwer Lytton in the field of 
literature created a picture of ancient civilisation 
so successful that it has not been surpassed 
by his followers, Alma-Tadema has solved the 
problem of the picture of antique manners in 
the most authentic fashion in the province of 
painting. He has peopled the past, rebuilt its 
towns, and refurnished its houses, rekindled the 
flame upon its sacrificial altars, and awakened 
the echo of the dithyrambs to new life. Poynter 
tells old fables, while Alma-Tadema takes us 
in his company, and, like the best informed 
cicerone, leads us through the streets of old 
Athens, reconstructing the temples, altars, and 
dwellings, the shops of the butchers, bakers, 
and fishmongers, just as they once were. . . . 
By his works a remarkable problem is solved ; 
an intense feeling for modern reality has called 
the ancient world into being in a credible 
fashion, whilst it has remained barricaded 
against all others who have approached it by 
the road of idealism. It is only in his method 
of execution that he still stands upon the same 
ground as Gerome, with whom he shares a 
taste for anecdote and a pedantic, neat, and 
correct style of painting.' ' 

So that, according to Ruskin, Alma- 
Tadema' s conceptions are of a " dastardly " 
character, and a not over-friendly critic from 
the Continent finds that his style is " pedantic, 



86 ALMA-TADEMA. 

neat, correct/ ' Is not fidelity the word for 
which this writer is striving ? Poor Alma- 
Tadema was positively accused of " pedantry " 
because he elected to paint true instead of fancy 
pictures of old Greece and Rome ! It may be 
refreshing to turn to what Mr. Monkhouse had 
to say : 

" While he belongs intellectually to the 
general movement of his time and to no par- 
ticular nation, his purely artistic impulses and 
technical proclivities are clearly derived from 
his own Dutch ancestors. That decided pre- 
ference for interiors and courtyards, with their 
subtle and complicated effects of reflected 
light ; that wonderful skill in the representa- 
tion of all kinds of substance and texture, 
that delight in beautiful colour modified and 
graduated infinitely by different intensities of 
illumination, that love of finish and detail ; in 
all these predilections Alma-Tadema shows his 
nationality. Instead of Holland, he gives you 
Italy ; instead of bricked alleys, marble courts ; 
but in his blood is the spirit of Terborch and 
Metzu and De Hoogh." 

This utterance is distinctly of interest, as 
implying Mr. Monkhouse's firm conviction that 
Alma-Tadema did not merely break away from 
his own convention when he started his classical 
work, but that this profound classicism found 
birth in that Dutch setting. 

And yet, after all, what is truth ? On the 
one hand, we have the singularly cheap criticism 



THE CRITICS. 87 

of Ruskin that Alma-Tadema's stone is good, 
his silver less good, his gold bad, and his flesh 
worst. On the other hand, we have the opinion 
of the late Cosmo Monkhouse upon the " Pyrrhic 
Dance " — the painting that was bludgeoned so 
unmercifully by the sage of Coniston — that it 
stands out distinctly " by reason of its striking 
silhouette and impressive attitudes of the 
soldiers engaged in this famous war-dance. 
The action of the men, studied no doubt care- 
fully from some ancient relief or bronze paint- 
ing, * is admirably rendered. It is stealthy, 
alert, and formidable." The same scholarly critic 
points out that no other artist has made such 
free use of flowers to brighten his compositions. 
He opines, however, that in later life Alma- 
Tadema has permitted himself some " liberty 
of anachronism " in this regard by introducing 
the most recent varieties of clematis and of 
azalea into his Greek and Roman flower-beds. 
But what would you have ? The flower sense 
is with Alma-Tadema a mania, and over and 
over again the beautiful blooms of his own 
conservatory have solved for him a picture- 
problem. 

All his life long Alma-Tadema has known 
what he wants and what he can effect in the 
mastery of his art. His combination of rare 
skill with rarer judgment has ever served him 

* Alma-Tadema's comment on this is, " No ; only from a 
single figure on a Greek vase. The leading girl in the original, 
not fitting in, was omitted." 



88 ALMA-TADEMA. 

in good stead. And with these fine qualities 
are allied his altogether surpassing excellence 
as colourist and as draughtsman, frequently 
rising to such heights as actually to defy 
criticism. As Monkhouse finely says, he be- 
longs intellectually to the general movement of 
his time and to no particular nation. And it 
is of more than passing interest to print side 
by side a notable utterance by Alma-Tadema 
and another by Lord Leighton. Thus the 
former : 

" Art is imagination, and those who love 
Art love it because in looking at a picture it 
awakens their imagination and sets them 
thinking ; and that is also why Art heightens 
the mind. ,, 

" The enemy/' said Leighton, " is this in- 
difference in the presence of the ugly ; it is 
only by the victory over this apathy that you 
can rise to better things ; it is only by the 
rooting-out and extermination of what is ugly 
that you can bring about conditions in which 
beauty shall be a power among you." 

By no means the least interesting or most 
unimportant of Alma-Tadema' s critics have 
been a trio of accomplished ladies, in Mrs. 
Edmund Gosse, Mrs. Alice Meynell, and Miss 
Helen Zimmern. Mrs. Gosse, the wife of the 
well-known and brilliant man of letters, writes 
gracefully and well ; I have already noted 
her able and picturesque estimate of our artist's 
" A Roman Emperor." Miss Zimmern, whose 




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THE CRITICS. ' 89 

writings on art topics have attained con- 
siderable dimensions, has been aided perhaps 
more by a fluent pen and an apt and attractive 
manner of jotting down her impressions than 
by a very discriminating estimation of the 
artist's work as a whole. Her style is good, 
but her impression uncertain. Mrs. Meynell has 
acted as the art critic of a great daily paper, 
and was in every way well qualified to speak. 
Finally, Lady Colin Campbell has from time 
to time, in the course of her w r ork as critic, 
had occasion to write of the pictures of Alma- 
Tadema at public exhibitions. Lady Camp- 
bell wields a fluent and graceful pen, and her 
judgment and appreciations on art subjects 
are always well worth listening to. 

Whatever may have been the unanimity or 
otherwise of his British critics, the fact remains 
that England has been the country par excel- 
lence for the exploitation and the recognition 
of Alma-Tadema's great gifts. In wealthy 
Holland, with all its wonderful traditions of 
art, even after he had reached the pinnacle of 
fame, " neither the King, the Government, nor 
any art institute in his native land gave him 
the smallest Order, nor was any attempt made 
to obtain one of his masterpieces."* In Great 
Britain and America, in France, Germany, and 
Belgium, on the other hand, we have seen how 
different was the reception, how universal the 
acclaim. 

* Ebers. 



90 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Yet in Holland, between 1856 and 1880, 
Alma-Tadema's brush did not earn more than 
a thousand florins ! though a picture which he 
sold in 1867 for six hundred florins was sold 
again for thirteen thousand. It is betraying 
no secret of the prison-house to state that, 
although Alma-Tadema has earned large sums, 
he has never earned the largest. In no single 
year has he received £10,000, and only twice 
has he been paid £5,000 for a picture. 



9i 



CHAPTER IX. 

HIS WORK FOR THE THEATRE. 

THERE is one immensely interesting phase 
or aspect of Alma-Tadema's work which I 
have not so far treated — his work for the stage. 
He has from time to time designed the scenes 
and the costumes in connection with the 
classical productions of three distinguished actor- 
managers — Sir Henry Irving, Mr. Beerbohm 
Tree, and Mr. F. R. Benson. This work has 
been done, of course, almost entirely for the 
Shakespearian revivals of the three eminent 
actors named ; and here the master's intimate 
acquaintance with the art of old Rome and 
old Greece has invested with a peculiar dignity 
and charm some of the most memorable and 
most beautiful theatrical productions of our 
time. 

His designs for Sir Henry Irving were con- 
fined to two plays, Coriolanus and Cymbeline. 
The former were executed by Alma-Tadema 
twenty years before they were utilised. They 
were carried out by the most notable scenic 
artists of the day, and, in the case of one of 
them, had the advantage of supervision by Mr. 
Comyns Carr, at that time managing director 
and adviser to the Lyceum Limited. I thought 



92 ALMA-TADEMA. 

it well, however, to ask Sir Henry Irving him- 
self for an expression of opinion upon Alma- 
Tadema' s work for the Lyceum, and from him 
I received the following response : 

" Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema did all the 
designs for Cy nib dine and for Coriolanus when 
I produced those plays at the Lyceum. They 
were, one and all, exquisite works of the highest 
art, full of imagination, poetry, and learning, 
and they must all live. In every case they 
were accurate lessons in archaeology, and in 
Cymbeline he dealt with a period almost ' new ' 
in art — the carved and ornamented wood, 
stone, and metal work of the early Britons. 
No praise could, to my mind, be too great for 
Sir Lawrence's work for the stage." 

How characteristic of Irving, this generous 
letter ! So honourable to the artist who penned 
it, so flattering to the artist who inspired it. 

It was followed by a communication from 
Miss Ellen Terry — the graceful Imogen and 
Volumnia of these two Shakespearian dramas — 
to whom I had written concerning the dresses 
designed for her by Alma-Tadema. Miss 
Terry wrote : " The costumes were very beau- 
tiful, but I can give you no adequate idea of 
the colours — the colour could only be expressed 
by Sir Lawrence himself ! He contrived to 
make me look like a young girl, which was a 
wizard's work, for it is not so very long ago 
since I played Imogen." But time has in any 
case dealt lightly with the ever-delightful Ellen 




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WORK FOR THE THEATRE, 93 

Terry. (It may be noted here, as a matter of 
interest, that in her own opinion the most 
exquisite of all the creations worn by Miss 
Terry throughout her long association with the 
Lyceum Theatre was one of her gowns in 
Mr. Calmour's poetical play, The Amber Heart.) 

With Mr. Beerbohm Tree, Alma-Tadema has 
also assisted in the scenic production of two 
important plays, and on this point Mr. Tree 
writes as follows : 

" The first production in which I had the 
advantage of Sir L. Alma-Tadema' s hand and 
eye and brain was Hypatia y which I did at 
the Haymarket. It owed much of its success 
to his sympathetic help. Notably beautiful was 
the scene in which Hypatia addressed the school . 
which was like a painting by Tadema himself. 
Miss Neilson, you will remember, played 
Hypatia. Then, at His Majesty's, Alma- 
Tadema did Julius Ccesar, and brought ancient 
Rome on to the stage, with what grand effect 
I need not remind you. Here his powerful 
personality made itself felt, not only in the 
scenery and the costumes (which often he 
himself would drape), but in the very atmo- 
sphere of the play. Is there not in himself 
much of ' the noble Roman ' ? It was, indeed, 
always a joy when he appeared on the stage 
to dominate the scene. It was he who taught 
us the Roman handshake, the mutual grip of 
the wrist. . . . The presence of a man is always 
inspiring." 



94 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Commenting upon this graceful and handsome 
acknowledgment from Tree, Alma-Tadema told 
me that Sunday after Sunday, during the heavy 
rehearsals for Julius Cczsar, Mr. Tree attended 
at the artist's house the better to wrestle 
with the difficulties of the Roman garments. 
The toga especially interested and baffled the 
actor, who did not find that Dickens had 
spoken entirely by the card in describing the 
" toga-like simplicity " said to be so eminently 
characteristic of one of his immortal creations. 

Mr. F. R. Benson has also, to a less elaborate 
degree, enjoyed Alma-Tadema' s co-operation. 
" Years ago, when I produced the Agamemnon 
at Oxford," writes Mr. Benson, " Sir L. Alma- 
Tadema gave me invaluable hints and advice 
as to Greek draperies and costumes, folds, etc. 
I have a lively and grateful recollection of the 
skill with which he arranged draperies and 
folds, and of the simple beauty of the results, 
and I was much impressed by the infinite 
patience and labour whereby they were 
achieved. I also have in my possession some 
very beautiful scenery designed by him for 
the Oxford production of Julius Ccesar, and 
into this design he has harmoniously blended 
the same richness of detail and character as 
he so successfully puts into his Academy pic- 
tures. I have most pleasant recollections of the 
kindliness of the man and the wonderful skill 
of the artist" 

The production by Irving of Coriolanus in 




WHISPERING NOON. 

In the possession of Sir Samuel Montagu, Bart. 



WORK FOR THE THEATRE. 95 

1901, for which, as just noted, Alma-Tadema 
supplied ten designs for scenes and costumes, 
turned out to be an artistic but not a financial 
success. It was found that this play, while 
not destitute of fine moments, is lacking in the 
sustained interest essential for stage purposes, 
and also lacks even the comparatively slight 
feminine interest of, say, Julius Ccesar. In this 
connection there is an old but good story of 
a stage hand employed at the Lyceum, who 
was reading an announcement of the play 
wherein the following passage appeared : 

" Coriolanus — Sir Henry Irving. 

" Incidental music by Sir A. C. Mackenzie. 

" Scenes designed by Sir L. Alma-Tadema.' ' 

ff Humph ! " remarked the stage hand 
thoughtfully, as he turned away with a slightly 
disgusted air. " Three blooming knights — and 
that's about as long as it will run ! " 

As originally set forth by Shakespeare, 
Coriolanus was conceived in five acts and no 
fewer than twenty- two scenes. For the pur- 
poses of Irving's Lyceum revival of 1901, 
however, it was condensed into three acts and 
ten scenes. (The period here assigned is 494- 
490 B.C.) Two of these scenes were in the 
camps of the forest, two street scenes in Rome, 
the Forum, the interior of the Senate — this 
being a particularly telling scene as designed 
by Alma-Tadema and staged by Irving — the 
interior of Coriolanus' house, and three scenes 
in Antium — viz. outside the house of Tullus 



g6 ALMA-TADEMA. 

Aufidius, the entrance-hall of the same, and 
the Forum. I have before mentioned that the 
designs were furnished by Alma-Tadema at 
Irving' s request many years before the actual 
production took place. 

They evoked from one enthusiastic critic the 
dictum that " If Sir Lawrence had not elected 
in his younger days to become a painter, he 
might have taken a remarkable position as an 
architect. His interpretation, based on the 
most profound archaeological research, of the 
variety of design in Etruscan architecture, 
comes to us virtually as a revelation, and we 
still keep well within the mark when we assert 
that no piece has ever been represented on the 
stage which approaches in its architectural 
illustration that which has been set forth in 
the scenery of Coriolanus. For the moment, 
however, we are inclined to press his claim 
to be a great designer of scenes in that he has 
been able, with the ephemeral materials of 
canvas and strips of wood, to produce the 
illusion of solid architectural forms. This, we 
imagine, is mainly due to the fact that, when 
undertaking his task twenty years ago, he com- 
menced by making a small model of the pro- 
scenium and stage of the Lyceum, measuring 
about two feet wide by twenty-two inches 
high, designing first a proscenium of his own 
which unfortunately was partially hidden in 
the theatre."* In this model he designed all 

* A rchitectural Review. 



WORK FOR THE THEATRE. 97 

his scenes to scale, making a series of water- 
colour drawings. 

His designs for the Forum in Rome, and 
for the less elaborate Forum at Antium, were 
among the most effective of the stage pictures. 
But perhaps his most brilliant successes of the 
whole series were his models for the interiors 
of houses. This is especially true of the interior 
of the Senate House. The keynote of this 
fine scene was its simplicity, and the fact that 
virtually only three colours were employed, in 
the red and white robes of the Senators and 
the warm-tinted yellow of the stone piers, 
seats, and architraves. Before finally quitting 
this subject of the staging of Coriolanus, men- 
tion must be made of three other impressive 
scenes — the interiors of the homes of Coriolanus 
and of Aufidius, and the splendid moonlight 
view of Antium, showing the house of Aufidius, 
Unhappily, however, this scene was of far too 
short duration in the play, while also the 
" moonlight " was so brilliant as to do less 
than justice to the beauty of the master's 
architectural detail. 

The original model and designs for Coriolanus 
were lent by Alma-Tadema to the Scenic 
Artists' Exhibition, held in London in 1905. 



CHAPTER X. 

PICTURES OF THE 'NINETIES. 

" ^V^OU do not know how difficult it is to paint 
1 pictures," remarked Alma-Tadema, with 
a pathetic intonation, to a friend. This was 
uttered in reference to the difficulty he ex- 
perienced — a difficulty, indeed, by no means 
unusual with him — in bringing to a fitting 
completion his second study from the life of 
Cleopatra. He " finished " this picture no 
fewer than four or five times, and was more 
and more dissatisfied. He painted as many 
as four or five different backgrounds to it 
before hitting upon one which partially satis- 
fied him. (The subject is the noble one of 
Antony abandoning his fleet to join the Empress 
as she reclines in her flower-decked galley.) 
Yet he had planned this picture in a manner 
that should seem to admit of no alteration, 
no dissatisfaction. His calculations, his dimen- 
sions, are unerring. " How do I manage to 
hit the right height of that figure seated in 
the chariot on the hill ? " said he to Cosmo 
Monkhouse when speaking of another painting. 
" It is because I know that the road there 




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PICTURES OF THE 'NINETIES. 99 

is exactly thirty feet below the level of the 
mosaic pavement of the hall in the foreground." 

Pictures came thick and fast from his brush 
in the early 'nineties. To 1889 belong " Silent 
Greeting " (now in the Tate Gallery) and " A 
Dedication to Bacchus." Of the latter subject 
Alma-Tadema painted a large and a small study, 
the larger one being the property of Baron 
Schroeder and the smaller having been sold 
at Christie's for a large sum in 1903. In 
1890 came the " Frigidarium " (painted for 
Sir Max Waechter), " Love in Idleness/' and 
" An Earthly Paradise." In 1891 that delight- 
ful picture " A Kiss " — a lady stooping to 
kiss a little child, in a background of sea and 
sky — was also painted for Sir M. Waechter. 
The same year witnessed the artist's striking 
portrait of Paderewski. These varied sub- 
jects were rapidly followed by " Courtship " 
and " Comparisons " (1892), " A Corner of My 
Studio " (1893) (painted for the late Lord 
Leighton, and now in the Wantage collection), 
"The Benediction," "Spring," and "At the 
Close of a Joyful Day " (the latter for the 
Royal Academy of 1894), " Love's Jewelled 
Fetter " and " Fortune's Favourite " (1895), 
and " Whispering Noon " in 1896. 

" Spring " is in every way a truly delicious 
inspiration. It is a large, long picture, and a 
great impression of length — or rather depth — 
is at once obtained from the animated figures 
flinging flowers from the walls of old Rome 



ioo ALMA-TADEMA, 

on to the moving procession below. It is a 
May festival in Rome. The picture itself is a 
paean of gladness. And the colouring ! It in- 
toxicates the senses, charms and satisfies the 
eye in every moment. What I may style the 
" notation " is so exact — there is no note that 
is wrong or false, and the whole conveys an 
impression of consummate ease on the part 
of the master who limned it. That such is not 
the case we know, Alma-Tadema being his own 
most critical and disdainful critic. One could 
imagine him spending long, sleepless nights in 
wrestling with the problem of the moment, 
the picture that obstinately refuses to 
" come right.' ' This " Spring," for example, 
is the result of innumerable alterations, era- 
sures, seemingly reckless scrapings down of 
canvas. And yet it comes out, in the fulness 
of time, a finished thing of great beauty and 
exquisite fineness. But we know that this 
desired end has not been attained without 
infinite labour and the loving care of a mother 
for her offspring. The artist might well have 
said with Swinburne : 

" For the end is hard to reach." 

" The Coliseum " was exhibited in the 
Academy of 1896, and to the announcement 
of it in the catalogue were appended these 
well-known lines from Byron's Don Juan : 

" And here the buzz of eager nations ran 
In murmur'd pity or loud-roared applause 




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PICTURES OF THE 'NINETIES. 101 

As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man. 

And wherefore slaughtered ? Wherefore, but because 
Such were the bloody circus' genial laws, 

And the Imperial pleasure. Wherefore not ? " 

And it was of this painting that the critic 
of the Athenceum wrote at the time : "It 
would be difficult to do justice to the breadth, 
brilliance, and homogeneity — in spite of its 
innumerable details — of this splendid picture. 
The painting of the minutest ornaments, the 
folds of the ladies' garments, even the huge 
festoons . . . and the delicate sculptor's work 
of the vases and mouldings on the balcony, 
are equally noteworthy. Even more to be 
admired are the faces, of which that of the 
maiden in blue is undoubtedly the sweetest 
and freshest of all Mr. Alma-Tadema's im- 
aginings." Her companion — the more stately 
lady, the mother of the child — who wears a 
diadem of silver in her black hair, illustrates 
a pure Greek type of which the painter has 
given us several examples, but none so fine 
as this one, which is very skilfully relieved 
against the peacock fan of gorgeous colours 
which she holds in her hand to hide her features 
from the crowd below. It is easy to imagine 
that in her noble spirit some thought of the 
victims of the amphitheatre arose, which ex- 
plains the painter's intention in choosing the 
motto, " The Coliseum." 

The Tsar of Russia, a great admirer of 
British art (and owner of one of the choicest 



102 ALMA-TADEMA. 

specimens of Sir Joshua Reynolds), became the 
possessor of Alma-Tadema's " Roses, Love's 
Delight/ ' It is simple, and it is simply charm- 
ing. A laughing girl, the daughter of the 
house, is burying herself in roses brought in 
as remnants from the garlands made for the 
decoration of the house, which is seen in 
the distance. 

Especially in view of the fact that he is 
British only by adoption, Alma-Tadema must 
be said to have hit upon some splendidly 
a propos titles for many of his pictures. What 
could be more happily effective, for example, 
than this " Roses, Love's Delight " quotation 
from the Anacreon ? Then we have, for the title 
of the delicious painting owned by Sir Ernest 
Cassel, " Under the Roof of Blue Ionian 
Weather " (Shelley). Again, for one of the 
artist's choicest effects (a work which is the 
property of Mr. Alfred de Rothschild) have 
been taken two of Browning's expressive lines 
from " Pippa Passes " : 

" The year's at the spring, 

* * * * 
f All's right with the world." 

Another picture most fittingly christened 
is " The Roses of Heliogabalus " ; here the 
subject is an historical one, but the painter 
has touched a right chord, and has given it a 
simple and charming name. To go further 
back in the development of Alma-Tadema's art, 




A SILENT GREETING. 

In the National Gallery of British Art. 

By Permission of Messrs. Gooden & Fox, 
Owners of the Copyright. 



PICTURES OF THE 'NINETIES. 103 

he touches a note of grim realism in the sub- 
title to " The Education of the Children of 
Clovis " — " The School for Vengeance." But 
one might go on for ever multiplying instances, 
of which the " Ave, Caesar ! 16 Saturnalia ! " 
is a peculiarly striking one. 



104 



CHAPTER XL 

THE KNIGHTHOOD AND ITS CELEBRATION. 

THE list of honours in celebration of her 
Majesty Queen Victoria's eightieth birth- 
day (1899) conveyed the popular intelligence 
that her Majesty the Queen had been pleased to 
confer the honour of knighthood upon Mr. L. 
Alma-Tadema, R.A. While, of course, it would 
be absurd to say that the artist was not im- 
mensely gratified by this mark of distinction 
from the Sovereign, it must at the same time be 
intimated that every one of his fellow-Acade- 
micians, not to speak of the general public, 
equally applauded the honour bestowed upon 
the celebrated Dutchman who yet seemed to 
be so much more English than Dutch. 

It was very generally considered that some 
more than ordinary step should be taken in cele- 
bration of this high honour. For Alma-Tadema 
was only the third artist of his race to be 
honoured by a British sovereign in this fashion, 
his two predecessors in the knighthood having 
been Rubens and Vandyck, who were both so 
rewarded by Charles I. But although to ill- 
fated Charles Stuart belongs the credit of having 
also created the first artist-knight of British 











■ 



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THE YEAR'S AT THE SPRING, 



ALL'S RIGHT WITH THE WORLD." 



in the possession of Alfred de Rothschild, Esq. Reproduced by 
Permission of the Artist. 



KNIGHTHOOD. 105 

birth — in the person of Sir R. Peake — it was 
long ages before another Englishman was so 
honoured. In the meantime, knighthoods or 
baronetcies were awarded to three more Con- 
tinental painters by English monarchs — Sir 
Peter Lely by Charles II., Sir Godfrey Kneller 
by William of Orange, and Sir Nicolas Dorigny 
by George I. A sure passport to favour in 
those days was to limn flatteringly the features 
of our rulers ; and this without the slightest 
disparagement to the great masters named 
above. It may be added that the first artist- 
knight preceded the first actor-knight by no 
less than two and a half centuries. 

The celebration of Sir Lawrence's accession 
to his new dignity took the form of a banquet 
at the Whitehall Rooms, London, on the evening 
of November 4th, 1899. In the unfortunate 
absence from England of the President of the 
Royal Academy, Mr. Onslow Ford was called 
upon to preside over a gathering that com- 
prised a hundred and sixty of the most distin- 
guished names adorning the roll not only of 
Alma-Tadema's own art, but also of the allied 
arts. Among the faces to be recognised round 
the table were those of Frank Dicksee, B. W. 
Leader, Colin Hunter, George Frampton, John 
Sargent, Rudolf Lehmann, Baden - Powell, 
Comyns Carr, George Henschel, Byam Shaw, 
the Hon. John Collier, Sir George Lewis, 
Sir Trevor Lawrence, Sir Henry Thompson, 
Briton Riviere, Fuller Maitland, Walter Crane, 



106 ALMA-TADEMA. 

G. H. Boughton, Seymour Lucas, and Sir Francis 
Powell. 

Apart from the graceful terms wherein 
Mr. Onslow Ford greeted the guest, the principal 
interest of this function very naturally centred 
in Alma-Tadema' s own speech. He did not 
disappoint his auditors. Mr. Onslow Ford had 
aptly said, in dwelling momentarily upon the 
fact that Alma-Tadema had produced the great 
number of 273 pictures since he settled in 
England, that " nationality in the world of art 
counts for very little." Alma-Tadema crowned 
this saying by avowing that in allying his own 
art with that of England he himself had re- 
ceived great benefit, inasmuch as he believed 
that in the course of his researches in the 
English school he had developed a greater re- 
search for beauty. He said he was proud to 
think that the English and Dutch were brothers 
labouring in the same field, who by their 
works and aims had always enormously in- 
fluenced each other with but a single object 
in view — and even, at one time, with a single 
ruler, William III. of Orange. If the Dutch 
had been the first great landscape painters 
(whose influence on himself no less a man than 
Titian had confessed), those painters had been 
the pioneers of the great English school of 
landscape painting. He remembered how, in 
1870, he had sat next to Daubigny at the 
table of Lord Leighton, and the French master 
had said to him that without Old Crome, 




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THE KNIGHTHOOD CELEBRATION. 107 

Turner, and Constable, the modern French 
school of landscape painting could not have 
existed. And he wittily added that if his 
own countrymen had once fastened a broom 
at their masthead to show how they had swept 
the seas clear of their enemies, their English 
brethren might do the same now ! 

Not the least pleasing incident of the cele- 
bration was the example of a distinguished 
Royal Academician, who, quitting his seat, 
kissed Alma-Tadema's hand, and was in turn 
embraced by him. 

That many-sided man, Comyns Carr — art 
critic, poet, playwright, editor, and theatre 
director — had composed for this occasion a 
kind of doggerel, entitled " The Car-men 
Tadetnare" which had been set to music by 
Mr. George Henschel. Mr. Henschel sang it, 
to the vast entertainment of the audience, and 
I here transcribe what may be termed its 
refrain or chorus : 

" Who knows him well he best can tell 

That a stouter friend hath no man 
Than this lusty knight who for our delight 

Hath painted Greek and Roman. 
Then here let every citizen 
Who holds a brush or wields a pen 
Drink deep as his Zuyder Zee 

To Alma-Tad 

Of the Royal Acad 

Of the Royal Acadamee." 

On the day after this noteworthy festival 



io8 ALMA-TADEMA. 

the press of the country honoured Alma-Tadema 
with long and appreciative notices, several of 
them marking the event by leading articles 
of a wonderfully complimentary and unanimous 
description. 

It is impossible to overlook the fact that 
the artist's sunny geniality and lovable per- 
sonality played an important part in the sin- 
gularly complete character of this festival in his 
honour. Indeed, it is scarcely an exaggeration 
to state that there was no more popular dignity 
conferred in the honours list of the year than 
the knighting of Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The 
right note was sounded in the following happy 
little appreciation : " Alma-Tadema' s double 
nationality, his Dutch birth, his long English 
residence, coupled with his classic tastes, his 
admiration for the Japanese, have contributed 
to render his art a curious complex of con- 
flicting tendencies — tendencies that in them- 
selves are again welded into a harmonious 
whole by the idiosyncrasy of the man. We 
seem to feel, even through the medium of his 
pictures, his kind-heartedness, his quick appre- 
ciation of all that is good and beautiful, his 
dislike of mystery, of vain searchings in dark 
mental places, his love of sunshine, moral and 
real. Others might paint his portraits as well, 
but none can paint those exquisite southern 
idyls of which such numbers have issued from 
his brush and brain. He has been called the 
painter of repose. I should rather be in- 



THE KNIGHTHOOD CELEBRATION. iog 

clined to style him the painter of gladness, of 
the joy of life. The world has certainly been 
rendered sunnier by his works." 

Mr. Joseph Hatton tells how Alma-Tadema 
once described to him the genesis of the legs 
of a horse which figure in one of his Pompeian 
subjects. " It was in this way/' he explained. 
" Driving to Brompton in a hansom, a green- 
grocer's cart came out of a street ahead, the 
horse galloping. I could only see the back of 
the cart and the lower part of the horse's legs. 
I took note of it all the way. It turned off 
into a street close to the house I was going 
to. I jumped out and I said, ' Give me a 
bit of paper.' I had a pencil. I put down 
the result of my observations as fast as I could 
— my friends thought I had gone a little mad 
— and the horse's legs before you are those of 
the animal in the greengrocer's cart ; but I 
think I must work them out a little more." 

On which Mr. Hatton' s humorous comment 
is, " Fancy that London cart linking to-day 
with the classic life of Pompeii ! " 



no 



CHAPTER XII. 

" THE FINDING OF MOSES "—PORTRAITS AND 
WATER COLOURS. 

SIR LAWRENCE was a deeply interested 
member of Sir John Aird's party for the 
opening ceremony in connection with the work- 
ing of that stupendous undertaking, the Nile 
Dam, in 1902. Very naturally Alma-Tadema 
found himself filled with a supreme delight at 
witnessing the scenes that had inspired his brush 
so many times, and not a moment of his brief 
tour in Egypt was wasted. Sir John was pro- 
foundly anxious to have an important painting 
on an Egyptian subject from his brush, and 
what the exact theme should be was the topic 
of numerous conferences between them. 
Finally, Alma-Tadema gave Sir John his choice 
of three subjects, and without a great deal of 
hesitation he selected the familiar one of " The 
Finding of Moses/' 

Shortly after returning to England (with 
innumerable studies in his mind's eye), Alma- 
Tadema commenced work upon this picture — 
for him, an exceptionally large canvas. In fact, 
so hard and continuously did he labour at it 
that in the Academy of 1904 he was repre- 
sented by only one canvas, this being the 







s ^ 



"THE FINDING OF MOSES." in 

dainty tone-poem entitled " The Ever-new 
Horizon." It is a small canvas, and so wretch- 
edly was it placed at Burlington House, be- 
tween two huge life-size portraits that com- 
pletely killed it, as to call forth complaint 
from many visitors to the Academy. In this 
connection it may be well to reproduce some 
caustic remarks of Mr. M. H. Spielmann, penned 
d propos of the Academy of 1901 : 

"It is safe to say," wrote Mr. Spielmann, 
" that not one in a hundred visitors to the 
Royal Academy realises how much the pic- 
tures exhibited there suffer from the conditions 
of display. The artists know it ; they know 
it only too well. With few exceptions they 
have suffered from it for years, and still surfer 
in silence, and, incomprehensibly enough, they 
seem willing to go on suffering without any 
attempt to effect the simple remedy. I refer 
to what is proudly called ' the searching light 
of the Academy ' — a very excellent thing when 
Old Masters are shown in the winter exhibitions, 
but a cruel and unnecessary ordeal to newly 
painted pictures. In no other salon of 
importance, it may be said, is the untempered 
light allowed to fall upon the canvases ; a 
velarium or a muslin screen is used to soften 
the unmitigated brilliance of illumination that 
otherwise imparts a crudity even to low- toned 
pictures, and fatally accentuates the harshness 
of a strongly painted work. . . . When we find 
equal harm done to pictures so utterly dis- 



H2 ALMA-TADEMA. 

similar in their qualities and values as M. 
Benjamin-Constant's vigorous picture of Queen 
Victoria, and the exquisite masterpiece of Sir 
Lawrence Alma-Tadema, we can no longer 
doubt the desirableness of the more judicious 
method of exhibition." 

To return to " The Finding of Moses," a 
canvas on which Alma-Tadema wrought for 
many months with limitless patience, loving 
care, and matchless skill. It is so essentially a 
new rendering of an old theme that it would 
perhaps more exactly be called " An Episode 
of the Finding of Moses." The child is being 
borne along by careful arms, while Pharaoh's 
daughter, leaning down from the palanquin in 
which she is carried by her servants (priests 
of the lower degree belonging to the House of 
Phta), gazes with a wondering admiration 
into the cherub face of the babe. The Nile 
that they have just left is seen filtering 
away through the arid background of muddy 
desert. Upon this picture Alma-Tadema worked 
for two solid years (1903-4), until his wife 
pathetically pointed out to him that the infant 
Moses was " two years old, and need no 
longer be carried." 

This noble biblical subject was destined 
to win its artist great renown in the Royal 
Academy of 1905. Its appeal, especially to 
those of us who know Egypt, is irresistible. 

The artist was profoundly impressed by this 
his first visit to the Egypt of his imaginings. 



"THE FINDING OF MOSES." 113 

He was there for only six weeks, but the fact 
of his going at all must have imparted an 
additional zest to his task of painting this new 
picture. With the great dam he was delighted, 
as well as fully alive to its enormous importance. 
Yet the Nile Dam, according to a recent writer, 
is i( a perfect success as far as it goes, but it 
does not go far enough. It can never silt up, 
for while the Nile is discharging its flood of 
muddy waters the whole of the sluices are 
open, and the river passes through without 
parting with its silt ; this is the great feature 
of the dams, for Egypt would be considerably 
the poorer if deprived of this rich silt. When 
the turbid flood has passed and the com- 
paratively clear water-supply of the river has 
begun to arrive, the sluices are gradually closed 
and the reservoir filled. No additional water 
is needed for irrigation between March 1st 
and May 1st, as the river naturally has enough 
for the requirements of the area at present 
under crop at this season. The earlier the 
flood, the more effective the reservoir.' ' 

It may be a favourable moment now to 
make mention of two branches of his art which 
have been to a very great extent overshadowed 
by Alma-Tadema's more ambitious work: I 
allude to his water-colour pictures and his 
portraits. In the realm of water colour he 
has had few equals, and he has been an 
eminent member of the Royal Water Colour 
Society since 1873. 



114 ALMA-TADEMA. 

" Xanthe and Phaon," painted in 1883 and 
acquired by the Walters Art Gallery of Balti- 
more, has an interesting story attaching to it. 
This is a water colour from the painting called 
" The Question/' which had originally been 
suggested as the subject of a novel to Ebers,* 
so that the suggestion originally made by the 
novelist returned again, as it were, to the artist. 
The delicious water colour, " ( Nobody asked 
you, Sir/ she said," has gone to Australia, 
whilst i( Pandora " belongs to the Royal Society 
of Painters in Water Colours. In these lesser 
effects, as well as in many of his portraits, 
Alma-Tadema's extraordinary " touch " and 
inborn sense of beauty combine to enhance 
almost every subject he has approached. In- 
cidentally, the master painted the scenes for 
the tableaux given in aid of the inundated 
Rhenish provinces. 

Numerous as are the portraits he has 
painted, Alma-Tadema has never been a por- 
trait-painter in the strictly professional sense 
of that term. It follows that the portraits he 
has executed are, one and all, stamped with a 
peculiar and most interesting individuality — 
for he has never attempted a portrait without 
feeling strongly attracted to his subject, and 
being almost convinced that the results would 
be in accordance with his own conception 
and his own hopes for the picture's success. 
His sitters have included personages no less 

* See p. 67. 




SIR ERNEST A. WATERLOW R.A., P.R.W.S. 



AS PORTRAIT PAINTER. 115 

renowned and no less diverse than the Right 
Hon. A. J. Balfour, the Duchess of Cleveland, 
Sir Ernest Waterlow, Paderewski, Mr. George 
Henschel, Sir Felix and Lady Semon, and Sir 
Henry and Lady Thompson. His female por- 
traits are few, but very noteworthy, including 
as they do Lady Alma-Tadema, Mrs. Charles 
Wyllie, and the wife of Mr. F. D. Millet, the 
Transatlantic artist. But over and over again 
has Alma-Tadema introduced the likenesses of 
relatives and friends into his pictures. This is 
notably the case with " Spring/' in which the 
Roman lady and gentleman looking down upon 
the superb spectacle are easily recognisable 
as Mr. and Mrs. Henschel, the well-known 
musicians, and their daughter, now Mrs. 
Wolfram Onslow Ford. 

On the important question of the ex- 
pediency or otherwise of art schools for travel- 
ling students, Alma-Tadema is reported as 
having said, " Of what use is it to try and 
graft a branch laden with fruit upon a sapling ? 
If the sapling has no trunk, how is it possible 
to effect a graft ? Rubens followed the right 
principle, and so, after having extracted from 
foreign travel the best it could give, he still 
remained Rubens. But what would have hap- 
pened if he had undertaken his journey pre- 
maturely — that is to say, before the artist 
inside him was fully developed ? ... It is 
my belief that an art student ought not to 
travel. When once he has become an artist, 



n6 ALMA-TADEMA. 

conscious of his own aim, of his own wants, 
he will certainly profit by seeing the works 
of the great masters, because he will then be 
able to understand them, and can, if necessary, 
appropriate such things as may appear useful 
to him. With one or two exceptions, the 
Prix de Rome men are not the foremost of 
their day. Meissonier, Gerome, Leys, remained 
at home until they had become consummate 
artists. Rembrandt never left Amsterdam, and 
Rubens, when travelling through Italy, made 
some sketches after Leonardo da Vinci which 
might pass as original Rubens, because Rubens 
was already Rubens when he did them. 
Vandyck and Velasquez travelled when they 
were already Vandyck and Velasquez, but not 
before." 

In the Birthday Honours List of 1905, 
His Majesty King Edward VII. (who had pre- 
viously done the painter the honour of per- 
sonally visiting his studio in order to see 
" The Finding of Moses ") conferred upon Sir 
Lawrence Alma-Tadema the high distinction 
of the Order of Merit. Since the first appoint- 
ments to this Order, three years before, it 
had only been given to one artist, viz., to the 
late G. F. Watts. It was now awarded to 
Alma-Tadema and to Mr. Holman Hunt. 




LADY ALMA-TAD E MA AND HER FAMILY. 
By Permission of the Artist. 



ii7 



CHAPTER XIII. 

AN APPRECIATION. 

IT is a commonplace to say that Alma-Tadema 
is in every way a most engaging personality. 
It is, indeed, impossible to doubt that the 
artist's innate kindliness of heart has been a 
not unimportant factor in the splendidly com- 
plete success of his life work. The kindliness 
that I speak of beams from his bright, fear- 
less blue eyes, and is scarcely less noticeable 
in the forceful, yet always sympathetic, manner 
of his conversation when animated. 

In appearance he is a small but strongly 
built man, speaking English with a pleasant 
accent that betrays his Friesland descent. 
Alma-Tadema is moust ached and bearded. Both 
are fair, scarcely inclined to turn grey, and 
you would certainly not for one moment sup- 
pose that he had been born in the year 1836. 
In every way he seems a study in perpetual 
youth. 

He loves music, and he loves flowers. When 
working on " Heliogabalus " during the dark 



n8 ALMA-TADEMA. 

winter months, he had roses sent to him from 
the Riviera twice a week to serve as " models/' 
so that he literally had a model for each in- 
dividual blossom. Nor is it often that one en- 
counters so well-stored a mind as his. Obsessed 
less by the conventions of his art than by its 
infinite possibilities and limitless limitations, 
he has lived his life in a world peopled with 
the absorbing beauties of an exquisite colour- 
sense, and the legends and glories of a rarely 
beautiful imagination. Well might he say, 
with one of Maeterlinck's characters, " It was 
not possible, because it was not beautiful," 
so abnormally acute is his sense of beauty 
not merely in matters relating to his art. And 
this perfection of beauty in all the work of 
his hand and brain is, as I have pointed out 
so frequently, largely based upon his per- 
fection of detail. Nothing is too trivial to 
escape him. 

A friend once asked him, " What is your 
favourite recreation ? " " Painting," replied 
the artist. His works number from three to 
four hundred ; and as an example of his 
wonderful thoroughness it should be stated 
that his " first sketch " for a picture is always 
done upon the canvas itself, and with the aid 
of models. Scrupulous care is taken with the 
arrangement of every figure and every detail, 
for no critic of his work is one-half so severe 
as Alma-Tadema himself. After numerous 
erasures begins his real hard labour. He is 



AN APPRECIATION. 119 

often very despondent and dissatisfied when 
a picture is in progress ; perhaps the art would 
not be so great if he were always buoyant. 
And what can one say of his versatility that 
has not been said ? At one moment he is pre- 
eminently the artist of old Rome ; the next, 
he comes before his audience in quite another 
guise — in the garb of a past so spirituelle and 
so idealised that in imagination we " live " the 
period that he spreads before us on the living 
canvas. 

In connection with Alma-Tadema's love for 
music, I recollect his telling me, with a boyish 
enjoyment of the incident, how a friend of his, 
a professor of music, spent years in deploring 
the untoward fate that had made Alma-Tadema 
a painter and not a musician ; until, at long 
last, he was brought to acknowledge and con- 
fess that fate had been right. 

" Nothing is to be done except by close 
application " is a favourite axiom of Alma- 
Tadema's. He is of all men the most implicit 
believer in the gospel of hard work ; it is 
hard, but it is good. He has always preached 
that there is no royal road to success ; and 
he himself is a shining example of the battle 
that may be won by pluck and determination, 
those two good allies, especially when, as in 
his case, they are linked to that great quality 
which has been cheaply described as " an 
infinite capacity for taking pains." Friend- 
less and unaided as he was when first he 



120 ALMA-TADEMA. 

launched out upon the stormy sea of an art 
career, the place to which he ultimately attained 
may be not unsuitably defined as unique. 

He is extraordinarily methodical in his 
habits. Care and orderliness distinguish every 
little task of his daily life, and he does not 
even care for his daughters to " tidy up " the 
studio. His paint-brushes are washed by his 
own hands. His library is catalogued and 
classified by himself. The whole of his corre- 
spondence — a big slice out of the working 
day — is conducted by himself unaided. And 
woe betide the unwary visitor who calls in the 
morning hours whilst Alma-Tadema is work- 
ing ! Every hour of the precious daylight is 
dedicated to his calling when he is at work 
upon a picture. 

Alma-Tadema has had but few pupils, and 
of these by far the most prominent are his 
own wife, his cousin, H. W. Mesdag, and 
the Hon. John Collier. He is, says Miss 
Zimmern, " the kindest and most large- 
hearted of teachers. His appreciation of the 
works of others is wide and sincere, and no 
matter how different this work may be from 
his own style and taste, he gives to it its due 
meed of praise, provided it be executed with 
honest intent. London society is familiar with 
this wiry, strong-set figure, with the face of 
kindly comeliness, with the cheery voice, with 
the frank, observant eye, the merry quips and 
cranks, the energy, the intense love of all 




s s 

^6 



«* 



AN APPRECIATION. 121 

that is great and good and lovely. To be with 
him is to feel invigorated, for he seems to have 
so much superfluous vitality that he is able 
to dispense it to his surroundings. Of his art 
he rarely speaks, and still more rarely of his 
art theories. Indeed, he is no theorist, though 
he knows perfectly well at what end he aims, 
and his art, like his personality, is homogeneous 
throughout. But it is not in his nature to 
analyse ; he follows his instincts, and these are 
true and right. ' To thine own self be true ' 
has been his life motto, and faithfully has he 
served it." 

His friend the late Georg Ebers has left 
on record the following beautifully expressed 
tribute to the artist, than which nothing could 
be more simply or sincerely rendered : " The 
tree shall be known by its fruits ; whoever knows 
these, knows the man himself. In my opinion, 
the time for a complete picture of Tadema's 
personality has not yet arrived ; he is still, 
thank God, among the ranks of the living, 
and when in the future his last hour strikes 
many hands more skilled than mine will hasten 
to write his eulogy. As for me, I can only say 
that I consider it a special favour of fortune 
to be permitted to call this rare, highly educated, 
warm-hearted man, and genuine artist, my 
friend. With so much genius, such a wealth 
of knowledge, and such unusually wide renown, 
he has retained a charming simplicity of 
character. Whoever knows him, knows the 



122 ALMA-TADEMA. 

source of the light and sunny cheerfulness that 
irradiates many of his paintings ; they proceed 
from his pure, chaste soul, which is overflowing 
with them. I shall never forget his face and 
the sparkling of his artist-eyes as one May 
day, while we were driving with our wives 
amid sunlight, fresh spring foliage, and singing 
birds, through the unpretending Leipsic Rosen- 
thal, he exclaimed, ' Ebers, the world is still 
beautiful I'" 

Alma-Tadema is very funny on the subject 
of what he terms the public appreciation for art 
with the big A. This, he says, has especially 
surprised him in the department of portrait- 
painting. " It always astonishes me," he once 
remarked to a friend, " that our modern public, 
with its love of the natural, should still be 
devoted to the old principle of portraiture. A 
head and some clothes, sometimes one or two 
hands, and the rest some black or brown. In 
fact, a portrait depicting a person under con- 
ditions they are never seen in. I, for one, 
never see my friends, never see anybody, with- 
out seeing at the same time more or less of 
the place in which I meet them ; of course, 
to paint the surroundings and study them and 
work the whole into a picture, involves a great 
deal more trouble than to rub the canvas full 
of a certain nondescript colour. But if I were 
to order the portrait of somebody dear to me, 
I should certainty like to have that person 
painted surrounded by accessories which 



AN APPRECIATION. 123 

awakened in my memory (say) a pleasant 
meeting, or pleasant hours.' ' 

It were sheer waste of time to speculate 
upon whether a great man be the product of 
the age in w r hich he lives, or the age the product 
of the great man. Alma-Tadema' s secret, alike 
in his life and in his work, is the splendid and 
most rare secret of controlled impulses — of 
what Swinburne has so finely called " govern- 
ance of blood " and " lordship of the soul." 
And Alma-Tadema is intensely human. Al- 
though he has always loved the home circle 
best and first, he has not been averse to 
a little genial conviviality outside it j and 
Mr. Monkhouse, in recalling how he saw 
Alma-Tadema mixing in the throng at a fancy 
ball of the Institute of Painters in Water 
Colours " crowned with a massive wreath of 
blue-bells," pauses to wonder whether there 
may not run in his veins some of the blood 
of the Roman Emperor he was personating. 
Who shall say ? 

The ever-difficult and baffling task of ex- 
amining and appraising the work of a living 
artist, both in the light of the artist's accom- 
plishment and its relation to the art of the 
period in which it has been accomplished, has 
been rendered yet more difficult in the present 
instance by reason of the writer's personal 
acquaintance with, and affection for, the artist. 
But one thing is certain. The place that 
Lawrence Alma-Tadema has won amongst the 



124 ALMA-TADEMA. 

great masters of the world is not of an age. 
Posterity will do him still fuller justice than 
contemporary criticism has done — great and 
adequate though this be — and its truth, its 
beauty, and its matchless craft shall combine 
to place the product of his brush and brain 
side by side with the highest and purest of 
the art of the world for all time. 



INDEX 



" Academy Notes," Ruskin's attack on 
Alma-Tadema's Work in, 53 

" After the Audience," 60 

" After the Dance," 57 

Agamemnon, Alma-Tadema's designs 
for, 94 

" Agrippina with the Ashes of Ger- 
manicus," 46 

Aird, Sir John, no 

Alma, Lourens, Godfather to artist, 13 

Alma-Tadema, Miss Anna, 35, 66 

Alma-Tadema, Miss Laurence, 35 

Alma-Tadema, Mrs., first wife of 
artist, 22 ; death of, 35 

Alma-Tadema, Lady, as artist, 37 ; as 
model to Sir Lawrence, 67 

Alma-Tadema, Sir Lawrence : His 
birth, 9 ; childhood, 10 ; education, 
12 ; training for a lawyer, 12 ; 
exhibits portrait of his sister, 12 ; his 
health breaks down, 13 ; christened 
Lourens Alma-Tadema, 13 ; is 
allowed to follow Art, 13 ; takes up 
residence at Antwerp, 14 ; assists 
Baron Hendrick Leys, 15 ; exhibits 
at Antwerp Exhibition, 1861, 21 ; 
elected to Academy of Amsterdam, 
22 ; first marriage, 22 ; removes to 
Brussels, 23 ; meets " Prince " Gam- 
bart, 24 ; attends Artists' dinner at 
Brussels, 28 ; first visit to Italy, 30 ; 
death of his first wife, 35 ; his work 
exhibited in London, 36 ; settles in 
London, 37 ; second marriage of, 
2,7 ; at Townshend House, 38, 43 ; 
residence in Grove End Road, 40 ; 



becomes British subject, 44 ; as 
a worker, 51 ; obtains Prussian 
Order of Merit, 56 ; elected Asso- 
ciate of Royal Academy and Acade- 
mician, 58 ; awarded Gold Medal at 
Paris Exposition, 1878, 60 ; exhibi- 
tion of his collected works, 71 ; as a 
portrait painter, 77, 114; obtains 
Gold Medal, Paris Exhibition, 1889, 
80 ; on Art, 88 ; his earnings, 90 ; his 
work for theatre, 91 ; is knighted, 
104 ; celebration dinner at White- 
hall Rooms, 105 ; his tour in Egypt, 
no, 112 ; member of Royal Water 
Colour Society, 113 ; on expediency 
of Art Schools for travelling 
students, 115 ; given Order of 
Merit, 116 ; his personal appearance, 
117, 120 ; his method of work, 118 ; 
believer in hard work, 119 ; his 
pupils, 120 

Amendola, Portrait of, 78 

Amphissa, Legend of Women of, 80 

" Antistius Labeon," 52 

Antwerp, Alma-Tadema's residence 
at, 14 

Antwerp Exhibition, 1861, 21 

" Apodyterium, The," 79 

Architectural Review, 96 

A rt Journal, 47, 63, 64 

" At Lesbia's," 49 

" At the Close of a Joyful Day," 99 

Atlien&um, 101 

'' Audience, An," 73 

"Audience at Agrippa's, An," 40, 57, 
61 

" Autumn," 66 

"Ave Caesar! 16 Saturnalia," 69, 71, 
103 



126 



INDEX. 



B 



" Bacchus and Silenus," 43 
Banquet at Whitehall Rooms, 105 
Barnay, Herr Ludwig, Portrait of, 

74 
" Bataille de Poitiers," 21 
" Before Churching," 49 
" Benediction," 99 
Benson, Mr. F. R., Alma-Tadema's 

designs for, 94 
Blackwood's Magazine, 55, 72 
" Boudoir," 49 
Brussels, Alma-Tadema's residence 

at, 23 



Campbell, Lady Colin, as critic, 89 

Carr, Mr. Comyns, 91, 107 

" Cherries," 51 

" Chess-players, The," 33 

" Claudius Summoned to the Imperial 
Throne," 47, 69 
Cleopatra," 57, 73, 74, 98 

" Clotilde at the Grave of her Grand- 
children," 20, 71 

" Coliseum," 100 

" Comparisons," 99 

Coriolanus, Alma-Tadema's designs 
for, 91, 94 

" Corner of my Studio," 99 

" Courtship," 99 

Cymbeline, Alma-Tadema's designs 
for, 75, 9 1 



David, Louis, 14 

" Death of Galsvintha," 27 

" Death of the First-born," 44, 52, 60, 

62, 71, 72 
" Dedication to Bacchus," 99 
De Keyser, 15 

" Destruction of Terdoest Abbey," 15 
" Dinner, The," 48 
Diploma Work for R.A., 75 
" Down to the River," 69 



Ebers, Georg, 11, 23, 29, 31, '34, 63, 

67, 74, 82, 89, 114, 121 
" Education of the Children of Clovis," 

17, 21, 71 
Edward VII., 116 
Egypt, Alma-Tadema's tour in, HO, 

112 
" Egyptian at his Doorway," 33 
" Egyptian Games," 36 
" Egyptians lamenting their Dead." 

47 
" Egyptians Three Thousand Years 

Ago," 33, 71 
" Embarkation," 49 
" En Repos," 74 

" Entrance to a Roman Theatre," 46 
Epps, Dr., Portrait of, 78 
Epps, Miss Laura Theresa, Artist's 

second wife, 37, 67 
" Ever-new Horizon," ill 
" Expectations," 80 



" Fete Intime," 51 

" Finding of Moses," 51, no, 112 

" Fishing," 48, 52 

" Flower Girl," 49 

Ford, Onslow, 105, 106 

" Fortune's Favourite," 99 

" Four Seasons," 41, 65 

" Fredegonda and Galsvintha," 60 

" Fredegonda at the Death-bed of 

Przetextatus," 22 
" Frigidarium," 99 



Gallait, Louis, 36 

Gambart, " Prince," 24, 26 

" Garden Altar," 69 

" Glaucus and Lydia," 46 

Gnauth, — , on " Death of the First- 
born," 63 

Gosse, Mr. Edmund, on " Roman 
Emperor," 50 

Gosse, Mrs. Edmund, as critic, 88 

" Golden Fleece," 15 



INDEX. 



127 



" Grand Chamberlain to His Majesty 
King Sesostris the Great," 51 

" Greek Wine,'' 52 

Grosvenor Gallery, Artist's exhibition 
of collected works at, 71 

Grove End Road, Alma-Tadema's 
residence in, 40 ; Panels at, 42 

" Gunthram Bose," 26 



H 



" Hadrian Visiting a Pottery in 

Britain," 75 
Hatton's, Mr. Joseph, story of Alma- 

Tadema, 109 
" He is Coming," 57 
Henschel, Mr., 107, 115 
" Hide and Seek," 58 
" Hope and Fear,'' 58 
Hypatia, Alma-Tadema's designs 

for, 93 



Irving, Sir Henry, Alma-Tadema's 

designs for, 91, 94 
Italy, Alma-Tadema's first visit to, 

3o 



J 



Jones, Mr. Henry Arthur, 40 
"Joseph, Overseer of the Granaries," 

"Juggler, The," 50, 73 
Julius C&sar, Alma-Tadema's de- 
signs for, 93, 94 



Keyser, De, 15 

" Kiss, A," 99 

Knighthood, and Celebration of, 104 



" Lady Returning from Market," 46 

Lagye, Victor, 25 

" Last Roses, The," K2 



Leeuwarden, Picturesqueness of, 10 

Leighton, Lord, on Art, 88 

" Lesbia," 46 

Leys, Baron Hendrick, 15, 18, 36 

London, Alma-Tadema's residences 

in, 37, 40, 43 
" Love's Jewelled Fetter," 99 
" Loving Welcome,'' 59 
Lowenstam, Portrait of, 78 
" Luther and the Four Reformers," 16 



M 

Meynell, Mrs., as'Critic, 89 
Monkhouse, Mr. Cosmo, on artist, 

83, 86, 87, 123 
" My Youngest Daughter," 78 



N 



Nile Dam, no, 113 

" ' Nobody asked you, Sir,' she said,'' 

114 
" Not at home," 69 
" Nymphaum," 58 



" Oleanders," 74 

" On the Way to the Temple," 75 



Paderewski, Portrait of, 99 

" Pandora," 73, 114 

Paris Exhibitions : of 1878, 60 ; of 

1889, 80 
" Parting Kiss," 66 
" Peep Through the Trees," 52 
" Phidias at Work in the Parthenon," 

45 
" Picture Gallery," 52, 55, 56 
"Pomona's Festival," 60 
" Portico of Roman Theatre,'' 36 
Portrait Painter, Alma-Tadema as, 

77, 114 
" Pottery," 51 
" Preparing for a Festival in a 

Pompeian House," 46 
" Pyrrhic Dance," 50, 87 



128 



INDEX. 



" Question, The," 67, 72, 114 
" Quiet Pets/' 73 

R 

" Reading from Homer," 78 

" Reflection," 74 

Regent's Canal Explosion, 39 

" Reproaches," 51 

" Roses, Love's Delight," 102 

" Roses of Heliogabalus," 80, 102, 117 

" Roman Emperor, A," 40, 50, 69 

" Roman Lady Returning from 

Making Purchases," 36 
Rossetti, D. G., Comparison with 

Alma-Tadema, 73 
Ruskin's, Mr., attacks on artist, 52, 

83,85 

s 

" Sappho," 70, 73 

" School for Vengeance," 21 

" Sculpture Gallery," 52, 53, 55, 56 

" Sculptor's Model," 58 

" Seasons, The Four," 41, 65 

" Service, The,'' 48 

" Shrine of Venus," 81 

"Shy," 74 
" Sick Chamber,'' 49 
" Siesta," 47 
" Silent Greeting," 99 
" Sortie de l'^glise," 36 
" Spring," 65, 99, IOO, 115 
Spielmann, Mr. M. H., on "Ever- 
new Horizon," ill 
Stage, Alma-Tadema's Work for, 91 
" Summer," 65 
" Sunny Days," 52 



Tadema, Mdme., mother of artist, 9; 

death of, 22 
" Tarquinius Superbus," 47 
Taye, Louis de, 16 
" Temple of Ceres," 69 
" Tepidarium,'' 73 



Terry, Miss Ellen, Alma-Tadema's 

designs for, 92 
Theatre, Alma-Tadema's work for, 91 
Thompson, Sir Henry, Portrait of, 59 
" Three Thousand Years Ago," 33, 

71 
" Tibulus' Visit to Delia," 37 
" Torch Dance," 73 
Townshend House, 38, 43 
"Tragedy of an Honest Wife," 57 
Tree, Mr. Beerbohm, Alma-Tadema's 

designs for, 93 

u 

" Under the Roof ot Blue Ionian 
Weather,'' 102 



" Venantius, Fortunatus, and Rade- 

gonda," 22 
" Venus and Mars," 43 
" Vintage, The," 28, 49 
"Visit, The," 49 
Vosmaer, — , Author, 23 

w 

Wapper's School at Antwerp, 14 

" Water Pets," 52 

" Well-protected Slumber," 60, 69 

" Whispering Noon,'' 99 

Whistler's, Mr., Onslaught on Artist, 

82 
Whitehall Rooms, Banquet at, 105 
" Wine, The," 48 
" Women of Amphissa," 79, 80 



" Xanthe and Phaon," 114 

Y 

" Year's at the Spring," 10^ 
"Young Affections," 74 



Zimmern, Miss, 76, 



Printed by Cassell & Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage, London, E.C. 



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Dictionary. 3s. 6d. and 5s. 

Latin Primer, The First. By Prof. 
Postgate. is. 

Latin Primer, The New. By Prof. 
J. P. Postgate. Crown 8vo, 
25. 6d. 

Latin Prose for Lower Forms. By 
M. A. Bayfield, M.A. 2s. 6d. 

Marlborough Books : — Arithmetic 
Examples, Revised. 3s. French 
Exercises, 3s. 6d. French Grammar, 
2S. 6d. German Grammar, 3s. 6d. 



Object Lessons from Nature. By 
Prof. L. C. Miall, F.L.S. Fully 
Illustrated. New and Enlarged 
Edition. Two Vols. , is. 6d. each. 

Physiology for Schools. By A. T. 
Schofield, M.D., &c. Illustrated. 
Cloth, is. od. ; Three Parts, paper, 
5d. each ; or cloth limp, 6d. each. 

Reader, The Citizen. By the Rt. Hon. 
H. O. Arnold-Forster, M.A. 
Revised, Re-set, and Re-illustrated, 
is. 6d. Also a Scottish Edition, 
cloth, is. 6d. 

Readers, Cassell's Union Jack 
Series. With Coloured Plates and 
numerous Illustrations. 6 Books, 
from 8d. each. 

Readers for Infant Schools, Col- 
oured. Three Books. 4d. each. 

Round the Empire. By G. R. 
Parkin. Fully Illustrated. New 
and Revised Edition, is. 6d. 

Shakspere's Plays for School Use. 

7 Books. Illustrated. 6d. each. 

I SpeUing, A Complete Manual of. 
By J. D. M or ell, LL.D. Cloth, 
is. Cheap Edition, 6d. 

Spending and Saving : A Primer of 
Thrift. By Alfred Pinhorn. is. 

Swiss Family Robinson. In words 
of one syllable. With 4 Coloured 
Plates. 6d. 

Things New and Old; or, Stories 
from English History. By the Rt. 
Hon. H. O. Arnold-Forster, 
M.A. Illustrated. 7 Books, from 
9d. to is. 8d. 

This World of Ours. By the Rt. 
Hon. H. O. Arnold-Forster, 
M.A. Illustrated. Cheap Edition. 
2S. 6d. 

"Wild Rowers" Sheets, Cassell's. 
12 Sheets, each containing 10 ex- 
amples of familiar wild flowers, 
beautifully reproduced in colours 
and varnished, is 6d. each. 

" Wild Birds " Sheets, Cassell's. 
Selected and Edited by R. 
Kearton, F.Z.S. Each sheet is 
mounted on Board, with Cord 
Suspender, and contains Eight 
Examples of Familiar Wild Birds, 
beautifully reproduced in Colours 
and Varnished. Six Sheets, is. 6d. 
each. Unmounted, 6d. each. 



A Selection from Cassell & Company's Publications, 



Books for the Little Ones* 



BONSER (A. E.)— 
Cassell's Natural History for 
Young People. With Coloured 
Frontispiece and numerous Illustra- 
tions, fcs. 

ELLIS (Edward S.)— 
The Lost River. With Four Full- 
page Illustrations, is. 
River and Forest. With Four 
Full-page Illustrations, is. 

HAMER (S. H.)— 
Archibald's Amazing Adventure. 
With 4 Coloured Plates and 
Numerous Illustrations by Harry 
Rountree. Picture Boards, is. 6d. ; 
Cloth, 2?. 

The Little Folks Adventure Book. 
With Coloured Plate and Illustra- 
tions. 3s. 6d. 

The Little Folks Picture Album 
in Colours. With 48 Illustrations 
in Colours. 5s. 

The Little Folks Animal Book. 
With Coloured Plate and Illustra- 
tions. 3s. 6d. 

Cheepy the Chicken : Being an 
Account of some of his most 
Wonderful Doings. With Four 
Coloured Plates and numerous 
Illustrations by 'Harry Roun- 
tree. is. 6d. ; cloth, 2s. 
Animal Land for Little People. 
Illustrated, is. 6d. 
Birds, Beasts, and Fishes. With 
Four Coloured Plates and nu- 
merous Illustrations, is. 6d. 
Master Charlie. Illustrated by 
C. S. Harrison. Coloured 
boards, is. 6d. 

Micky Magee's Menagerie ; or, 
Strange Animals and their 
Doings. With Eight Coloured 
Plates and other Illustrations by 
Harry B. Neilson. is. 6d. ; 

Cloth. 2S. 

Peter Piper's Peepshow. With 
Illustrations by H. B. Neilson and 
Lewis Baumer. is. 6d. ; cloth, 

2S. 

Quackles, Junior: Bei>:g the Ex- 
traordinary Adventures of a Duck- 
ling. With Four Coloured Plates 
and other Illustrations by HARRY 
Rountree. is. 6d. ; cloth, 2s. 



HAMER (S. H.) Continued— 
The Ten Travellers. With Four 
Coloured Plates and numerous 
Illustrations by Harry B. Neil- 
son. is. 6d. ; cloth, 2s. 
The Jungle School; or Dr. 
Jibber-Jabber Burchall's Acad- 
emy. With Illustrations by H. 
B. Neilson. is. 6d. ; cloth, 2s. 
Whys and Other Whys; or, 
Curious Creatures and Their 
Tales. By S. H. Hamkr and 
Harry B. Neilson. Paper 
boards, 2s. 6d. ; cloth, 3s. 6d. 
Bo-Peep. A Treasury for the Little 
Ones. With 4 Full-page Coloured 
Plates, and numerous oth r Illus- 
trations. Yearly Volume. Picture 
boards, 2s. 6d. ; cloth, 3s. 6d. 
The Little Folks Sunday Book. 
With Coloured Plates and Full page 
Illustrations. 5s. 

The Little Folks Book of Heroes. 
With Coloured Frontispiece and 
numerous Illustrations. 3s. 6d. 
KNOX (Isa Craig)— 
The Little Folks History of 
England. With 30 Illustrations 
and 4 Coloured Plates, is. 6d. 
" Little Folks " Half-Yearly Volume. 
Containing 480 pages, with Six 
Full-page Coloured Plates, and 
numerous other Illustrations. 
Picture boards, 3s. 6d. Cloth gilt, 
gilt edges, 5s. each. 
Little Folks Fary Boo 1 ?, The. 
With Coloured Frontispiece and 
numerous Illustrations. 3s. 6d. 
Merry Hours. With 2 Coloured 
Plates and Numerous Illustrations, 
is. 
Our Pictures. With 2 Coloured Plates 

and Numerous Illustrations, is. 
"Tiny Tots" Annual Volume. 

Boards, is. 4d. ; cloth, is. 6d. 
Tiny Tales. With 2 Coloured Plates 

and numerous Illustrations, is. 
MONSELL (J. R.)— 
Funny Foreigners. Illus rated. 
6d. net 

Surprising Strangers. Illustrated. 
6d. net. 

Notable Nations. Illustrated. 
6d. net. 



CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London. 



GETTY CENTER LIBRARY 



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